Bexhill-to-Hastings road protester let back in tunnel

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Media captionThe last of the protesters at one site on the Bexhill to Hastings link road are evicted by bailiffs.

A protester who tunnelled under a road building site was allowed out overnight by security staff, only to return underground the following morning.

"Simon Sitting Bull" said security workers on the Bexhill-to-Hastings link road allowed him to leave the tunnel because of freezing weather.

He said a "gentlemen's agreement" was honoured and he was allowed back in his tunnel to await bailiffs.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said staff made sure protesters were safe.

The protester was eventually evicted by bailiffs at about 11:00 GMT on Thursday.

'Care and friendliness'

Sitting Bull, whose real name is Simon Medhurst, said: "I have learnt and will be able to pass on invaluable information to the protesters of the next road they build on how to stop it.

"I was just one man in one tunnel. Imagine 10 men in 10 tunnels - the process of extracting us would take that much more time.

"If we had managed to delay them to the point where the bird-nesting season had started they would have had to have stop cutting down the trees."

He said he was allowed to spend the night in a trench near the tunnel under a "gentlemen's agreement".

"I can't praise them enough. It seems like an away day," he added.

"The tunnel rescuers made sure that everyone knew that if I came out I wouldn't be jumped and would be as warm as possible and keep the serious cold away.

"They are taking them out with the utmost care and friendliness."

The council said all the activists at one of two protest sites in Combe Haven Valley had been removed or left voluntarily by about midday.

A spokesman said: "This morning's operation was successful and it achieved the objective.

"We are working according to our plans and the preparatory works are still within our schedule."

'Stay safe'

Anti-road campaigners estimate between 15 and 20 protesters are still based at a second site referred to as Decoy Pond.

Police and bailiffs began evicting protesters from the site, near Crowhurst, on Wednesday morning.

Image caption Simon Sitting Bull locked himself into a tunnel during Wednesday's evictiion

Up to 30 activists had set up the site - dubbed "the second Battle of Hastings" - to halt the construction of the £93.8m link road.

Earlier, ESCC said Sitting Bull and a couple of protesters were still on the site overnight, where temperatures fell to -5C.

ESCC spokesman Rupert Clubb said at the time: "We stayed there last night to make sure they were OK."

Specialists were brought in to deal with any possible booby traps laid by the protesters.

Contractors started to clear the trees and undergrowth in December in preparation for construction work on the link road.

Anti-road campaigners took their protest to the trees in Combe Haven Valley at the same time.

The road will link the A259 and B2092, crossing Combe Haven Valley near a site of special scientific interest.

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