Sunday, 7 March 2010

Radley Lakes - Oxfordshire

Not related to Solsbury Hill directly but it does ask the question what kind of society are we now living in.

The range of public order laws (around 18 new ones in the last 10 years) have made civil protest virtually impossible.
Would I have been able to photograph Solsbury Hill in 1994 if these same laws were in place then ?

In the case of Radley Lakes (2007) I was working for the Guardian Newspaper and BBC Wildlife magazine covering a story about waste fuel ash from Didcot power station being dumped into wildlife lakes at Radley , Nr Abingdon, Oxfordshire. By fortune or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, I photographed a Kingfisher's nest being destroyed by N Power contractors.

This ash could have been turned into building materials such as breeze blocks . Unfortunately N Power chose the alternative of dumping it into the lakes, a much loved nature spot and home to a variety of rare species such as the Cetti's Warbler. The lakes were also frequented by Otters.
The residents of Radley had also gone through a lengthy inquiry to have the lakes registered as a Town Green.
While they waited for the decision N Power continued with the felling of trees and the destruction of vegetation at the lakes.

I received a call from a concerned local resident who told me that N Power contractors were destroying a Kingfisher's nest .
(I'd photographed the same Kingfisher only a few days before).

A Kingfisher is a protected species under the European habitat's directive and destroying its habitat is a criminal offence.

N Power had further increased local anger by imposing a High Court injunction that prevented anyone who had read, seen or was aware of it from walking around the lakes as they had done for many years.
Anyone who ignored it faced up to 5 years in jail.

When I arrived at Radley Lakes I photographed, from a public highway, the N Power contractors stripping vegetation close to the Kingfisher's nest. Within minutes I was approached by four balaclava clad security (with video cameras) and two lawyers in pin-striped suits carrying armful of injunctions which they proceeded to serve on me despite my press card being shown to them. They ordered me to stop filming with the threat that if I continued I would go to jail. The injunction specifically forbade the filming of N Power contractors.
It was clear that the media was being silenced.

Fortunately I managed to video the entire affair which, after obscuring their faces, ended up on Channel 4 News.
See video below.

After a lengthy legal wrangle the injunction was found to have no strength against the media, but the effect was to prevent me from covering the story at the time. It also had the effect of terrifying the law-abiding locals.

In in this case the whole affair backfired badly on N Power who had a public relations disaster on their hands.

The public outrage caused by their bully boy tactics forced them to back down and hand the lakes back to nature .
The land is now going to be a nature reserve.

Under Punches - big brother mix

This is a film by photojournalist Gary Trotter.
It sums up where we are at in the UK better than anything else i've seen for a while
more of Gary's work can be seen at