Pipers mark end of 18 day Leek roundabout sit-in
CAMPAIGNERS served with an injunction have packed up their protest camp on a town centre roundabout after an 18-day sit-in.
More than 20 residents gathered on Leek's main roundabout from 7am yesterday to mark their final stand in their latest protest against the town's planned new road system.
They were told to leave by 9am yesterday after Stoke-on-Trent County Court awarded possession of the floral island to Staffordshire County Council, which claimed the campaigners were trespassing. They left the roundabout at 8.30am.
Jacqueline Banks, aged 68, of Gordon Close, Leek, who camped out for four nights during the protest, said: "It is very sad and we are feeling so hurt and upset because they are taking away something we love."
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Highways officers are removing the roundabout and nearby crossings to create traffic light junctions as part of the development of the town's Sainsbury's store.
Contractors managed to remove half of the roundabout earlier this month, while protesters set up camp on the other.
Avril Kick, aged 65, of Fernwood Drive, Leek, said: "It is a tragedy. Thousands of people have asked the council to leave this piece of land alone but they have not listened.
"It is not doing anyone any harm.
"We are upset and tired. Some of us have been up day and night to protect that piece of land."
Workers fenced off the remaining section of the roundabout within minutes of the protesters leaving yesterday.
As protesters took down the banners and placards and packed up their campsite a Leek bagpipe player provided a final tune to mark the occasion.
Jonathan Whilock, aged 45, and his 12-year-old daughter Edith played songs, including Auld Lang Syne, to the crowds.
The father, who owns Bridge End garage, in Leek, said: "I was born in Leek and am very upset to see it ruined by an unnecessary development.
"We need proper business investment here for our young people and not just part-time jobs – I think it is ridiculous."
The occupation of the roundabout was the latest stage in an 18-month battle against the proposed road changes.
Protesters believe there was a lack of consultation about plans to change the road system and say it will cause traffic chaos once the store is built.
Margaret Goodwin, aged 79, of Westwood Heath Road, Leek, joined protesters yesterday. The retired nurse is partially sighted and believes the roads will be far more dangerous after the changes.
She said: "When I come up to town it is already difficult for me with two crossings.
"It will be like taking my life in my hands."
Grandmother-of-six Grace Barr, aged 72, of Picton Street, Leek, who is also partially sighted, said: "We want more crossings. Not enough people have been consulted and as far as I know the plans have not been made available to those with partial sight."
Some of the protesters were given cobbles from the roundabout to keep as a souvenir of their efforts.
Despite the end of the sit-in, campaigners are still calling on the Government to intervene in their fight with the council.
Town mayor Pamela Wood said: "It is a very sad day for Leek.
"The residents have tried to get their voices heard but no-one has listened."