Rebecca Lush is an environmental activist who was influential during the 1990s and early 2000s when she helped organise a number of major UK road protests including those against the M3 Extension at Twyford Down, the M11 link road and the Newbury bypass. With others she later successfully challenged the UK Government's Breach of the Peace legislation at the European Court of Human Rights in 1998. In 2005 she founded 'Road Block', a new support organisation for anti-road campaigners in response to renewed road-building and later joined the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) as Roads and Climate Campaigner. At CBT she uncovered major cost overruns on road schemes and defects in the road appraisal process. She "pied" Jeremy Clarkson at an honorary degree ceremony for the presenter at Oxford Brookes University in 2005. She was an anti-road campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport until 2012.
Lush became an active environmentalist while studying politics at Bristol University and joined the 'Dongas' protest camp at Twyford Down against the construction of one the road schemes, a new section of the M3 motorway being built close to where she grew up in 1992. This was one of many schemes outlined in the Roads for Prosperity white paper which Margaret Thatcher described as 'the largest road building programme since the Romans.
In July 1993 Lush and five others (including Emma Must who later went on to win the Goldman Environmental Prize) were imprisoned for a month for breaking a High Court injunction banning them from Twyford Down. While in Holloway Prison she was visited by the then European commissioner for the environment, Carlo Ripa de Meana who was concerned about the situation.
Lush was arrested also in 1993 and ordered to agree to be bound over for twelve months, to keep the peace and pay the sum of £100. She refused and was sent to prison for seven days. She and others subsequently successfully challenged the UK Government's Breach of the Peace legislation at the European Court of Human Rights in 1998.
Lush was one of the founders of Road Alert!, a national networking service for UK road protests which supported many of the mass demonstrations of the period including the M11 link road protest and the Newbury bypass which contributed to the end of the then government's ambitious road building programme.
In 1996 the Road Alert! offices were moved to Newbury where construction of the Newbury bypass was starting. There were major protests with excess of 1,000 arrests and a policing bill of £26 million.
Between 1994 and 1997 the majority of the remaining road schemes were cancelled after which many campaigners, including Lush, stopped protesting.
In 2002 the government proposed a new major road building programme and expansion of aviation. Lush and a number of other road protest veterans visited the Department for Transport to warn of renewed direct action and delivered a D Lock as a symbol of the earlier protests. Lush founded Road Block to support a growing number of protests around the country soon afterwards.
In September 2005 Lush 'pied' motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson after he collected an honorary degree in Engineering from Oxford Brookes University in protest at his dismissive comments on the effects of climate change. She also 'pied' the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling when he appeared at the launch of the pro-aviation UK lobbying group, Future Heathrow, explaining "I was absolutely appalled. Why have a campaign group when you have already got the minister on your side?".
During 2006 she advised cosmetics company Lush (no relation) on how to support activists and the company later introduced the 'Charity Pot', a product where 100% of the purchase price (excluding VAT) goes to fund activist groups. Mark Constantine, CEO of Lush explained, "I hate cars, I really hate them, but I'd been giving up the ghost, until Rebecca came along and we started all this up".
In December 2006 Lush highlighted four priority protests; the Mottram to Tintwistle Bypass (in the Peak District National Park), plans to widen the M1 motorway and the M6 motorway and to build a new road from Heysham to M6.
While at CBT Lush researched the cost and climate change impacts of various proposed road schemes. She discovered that the estimated costs of seven major schemes had risen by £1.15 billion in a single year, increases which were criticised by the National Audit Office. Then, while researching the DfT's road scheme appraisal process she revealed that their assessment process disadvantaged schemes that reduced car use because they reduced fuel consumption and hence revenue to The Treasury. This led to direct meetings with Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Transport.
- Curtis, Polly (12 September 2005). "Clarkson hit by pie at degree ceremony". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
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- Williams, Rhys (27 July 1993). "Protester jailed for defying Twyford Down ban is freed: Activist agrees to abide by injunction to stay away from M3 site at centre of environmental battle". The Independent. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
ONE of the seven protesters jailed last Friday for defying a High Court injunction was freed ... The other six protesters – Jason Torrance, Philip Pritchard, Simon Fairlie, Robert Bear, Rebecca Lush and Emma Must – are expected to serve out their term. ... Rebecca Lush, 21, is a local environmental campaigner from Winchester. She has been active at Twyford since last October.
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After eight months of badgering by Lush Blum, the DfT was forced to reveal that it had approved cost increases to seven road schemes totalling £1.15 billion in just one year. This is despite criticisms from the National Audit Office and the Nichols report condemning excessive expenditure on roads.
- "The road fix". The New Statesman. Retrieved 13 October 2010.
"The upshot of all these assessment systems is that, however bad a road might look to the people living near its route, and however damaging it is likely to be to the environment, the economic 'benefits' will, on paper, always look much greater," Under Nata, road builders such as the Highways Agency and local authorities must submit detailed assessments of proposed transport projects to the government. These are meant to be balance sheets showing the costs, benefits and environmental impacts... This awards extra points to schemes that generate more traffic because more cars and lorries on the road mean more fuel sales – and hence more tax revenue for the government. By contrast, public transport schemes, which take motor vehicles off the road and so reduce fuel sales and tax revenue, have points deducted.
- "Rebecca Lush Blum". The Guardian. London. 26 March 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2008.
- "Richard George". Campaign for Better Transport (UK). Retrieved 30 April 2009.