The recent programmes about the 25th anniversary of the protests to stop the M11 Link Road being built through Wanstead brought back memories.

Local people joined campaigners from outside in an attempt to stop the road. The methodology was peaceful direct action. Wherever there was a perceived obstacle on the route, protesters clung on. There was the tree on George Green, which became home to a number of people. An early morning operation, involving hundreds of police and security staff, removed the protesters.

The houses along Cambridge Park, opposite Our Lady of Lourdes Church, were declared to be Wanstonia and had a sort of separate state status at one point.

Protesters occupied and locked onto the buildings. The police and private security companies virtually closed the area on Ash Wednesday. The vehicles were parked in the church car park, as the operation involving 600 plus police and security guards.

A similar occupation and removal took place further down the route, at Claremont Road in Leytonstone. The 3.5 mile road was finally built at a cost of £250 million, the loss of 350 houses and acres of green space. It was really a blueprint for all that was wrong with transport policy in the UK.

The protesters felt they had lost the battle at Wanstead but won the war. Government subsequently backed off from road building for a while, following the mass protests at Twyford Down, Newbury and Wanstead.

However, virtually everything the protesters argued 25 years ago has come to pass. Pollution levels have increased to the present epidemic levels. The desire to drive everywhere has resulted in us poisoning ourselves and, significantly, our children. Other forms of transport have been treated in an ever more second class fashion by successive governments.

One memory of the M11 Link protests was of so many children coming out to join in. Children from the local schools were there at the forefront of the protest, Notably today, it is again young people leading the battle against climate change and the destruction of the environment. The recent climate strike saw young people across the land coming out to say enough, there is a climate emergency and the present approach of government is not good enough. There are also many young people active in the climate extinction movement, which sees people taking direct action, in similar vein to their forebears 25 years ago. Locking on and calling to be heard.

Government, businesses, civil society and indeed all of us as individuals must hear this cry. It is no good just kicking these environmental problems into the long grass and hoping they will go away.

We are attempting in Wanstead to address some of the issues with the emerging environmental charter. However, again people in the community must come forward and take action. Environmental change is not going to happen by just talking about it.

People in this area seem keen to take part in environmental activities. The recently instituted litter picks have grown in popularity. Residents want to recycle more and see more biodiversity .

There are many cyclists in Wanstead, keen to use their bikes more. Though on a more negative note, many seem to have a virtually umbilical link to their cars. So the grass roots of a more environmentally sustainable way of living is there, it just needs to now be developed. Time to learn the lessons of the past and plot a cleaner, greener future.

  • Paul Donovan is a Redbridge councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See