M5 blockade protest in Devon cancelled

Plans to block the M5 junction for Tiverton and motorists heading to North Devon have been cancelled after the idea sparked controversy.

Ami Wyllie  www.devonlive.com

North Devon and Torridge Housing Crisis campaigner Emma Hookway proposed the plans to highlight the plight of many residents in the region struggling to find a home.

She posted her plans to blockage junction 27 at 5pm on Friday (August 27) in her housing crisis Facebook group and asked for support co-ordinating the event.

Immediately, people raised concerns and advised Emma to cancel the event, but she insisted that half an hour was all that was needed to make a dramatic statement.

Emma said: “Half an hour guys, that’s all I’m asking.

“Half an hour to let the rest of the UK know what is happening to you.”

However, after further criticism towards the idea, Emma cancelled the event due to the backlash she received, but asked for help coming up with new ideas.

In the North Devon and Torridge Housing Crisis group, she wrote: “It seems that the group was mostly against the junction 27 idea and I respect that.

“Therefore, what should we do next to keep the momentum going?”

Emma told Devon Live: “I don’t want to do something drastic, but I want to create an event that gets people to acknowledge what’s happening.”

It’s property – not coronavirus – that is emerging as the hottest topic in Devon now the dreadful pandemic rumbles towards its conclusion.

Several commenters raised concerns over the safety of a protest like this.

One person asked: “Could this not potentially cause accidents?

“Blocking a motorway junction doesn’t sound like a safe idea to me.”

She went on to warn: “I think this is potentially dangerous, on the junction of two roads that are incredibly dangerous as is.”

Other commenters were worried about the traffic implications on the last Friday of the school holidays, which doubles as a bank holiday.

They thought that blocking J27 would be counter productive to getting politician’s and the general public on side.

One person said: “Lobby your council representatives and your MP.

“Action like this will only turn people against your concerns.”

Another wrote: “When the traffic is already bad, a half hour hold up is an issue, especially when you have young children in the car.

“It doesn’t make sense, you want local’s help, yet you are making the local’s lives a nightmare.”

Someone else said: “What about locals going away?

“I’ll be travelling up north for the weekend next Friday.

“We have already postponed our wedding three times and our 10th anniversary once.

“Not knocking the sentiment, but I’d rather this time we just had a smooth run.”

Meanwhile, others raised concerns about the access route to larger hospitals.

Lewis Clarke wrote: “As somebody who has just returned from hospital with a poorly baby and used that route several times over the course of visiting Musgrove, I cannot help but feel for all those people in similar situations who would be help up because of something like this.”

Another wrote: “Not a cool idea. People use this route to access Bristol Royal Infirmary.”

Some argued that as the blockade would be on the Southbound carriageway, it would not interfere with people travelling North to Bristol.

However, it was pointed out that the return journey from the hospital would be impacted.

One person shared a personal anecdote: “Two years ago I travelled that road twice a day for a week to visit my husband who was in Bristol Royal ICU.”

In a separate comment, she added: “I drove that road having left my husband in BRI with malaria wondering if I would see him again.

“But I needed to get to my children who I hadn’t seen for four days with thoughts in my head wondering if I would be taking them to say goodbye to their daddy.

“That was my return journey.”

Not everyone was against the idea of a road block, some group members thought J27 might be too extreme, but suggested local roads in North Devon or council run car parks as an alternative.

Someone suggested: “Find local council meetings and block their car parks.

“Much better to inconvenience the people who make decisions.”

One person compared it to similar drastic action that rocketed campaigners into the public eye.

They wrote: “It’s about awareness though, people need to sit up and listen.

“Look at Extinction Rebellion and BLM, you would not even know who they were unless they took extreme measures.”

A similar protest was proposed in Cornwall, as locals facing a similar fight against second home owners and a surge in rental prices threatened to form a human barrier across the A30 into the county.

Emma is currently working on another plan to raise awareness for the North Devon housing crisis and will be holding a meeting at the Castle Centre in Barnstaple on 2 September at 7pm.

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