M11 Protest

M11 Protest

One of Britain's largest and longest anti-road building protests took place in East London during the 1980s and 90s. It came to a climax in 1993 when, after exhausting all other avenues, the campaign turned to direct action.

The protest concerned the demolition of 400 houses in Leyton, Leytonstone and Wanstead to make way for an inner-city motorway. The new road was to link the M11, opened in the early 1970s, to London's road network. This meant pushing the road through the Victorian terrace streets between Hackney marshes and Redbridge roundabout.

The first Link Road Action Group was formed in 1976. For the next 15 years, the residents fought government plans through public enquiries. The residents' solution was to build a road tunnel, leaving the houses untouched. By the 1980s, planning blight had affected the area and many of the houses had become home to a community of artists and squatters. Some were tenants of the housing co-operative ACME, which let derelict East End property to artists on short leases.

Construction of the road began in the early 1990s, followed in 1993 by the start of a direct action campaign to resist the final evictions. Residents transformed the Victorian terraces into a makeshift walled city, blocking up the entrances and creating new interior routes between the houses and over the rooftops. The streets became a daily battle of wills between the bailiffs, trying to evict people, and the inventive residents.

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