CLIMATE activists who protested outside a council meeting and called for the scrapping of a £130m M3 scheme have written an open letter to Winchester’s MP.

It comes after Winchester City Council’s cabinet responded to a public consultation to express environmental concerns over the junction nine scheme at Winnall, due to get under way in 2021/22.

However, staging a ‘die-in’ on the steps of Winchester Guildhall, one Extinction Rebellion protester branded that response “woefully inadequate”.

Now, Extinction Rebellion Winchester has penned an open letter to Steve Brine, questioning his support for the project.

It said: “We have a major puzzle we cannot solve. We are wondering why you are continuing to support the Highways England plans to expand M3 junction nine? We ask this because you also insist that you are a champion of the environment and are concerned about the impact of climate change.

“In particular, you often remind voters that you are a long-time supporter of Friends of the Earth (national) and that you are a founder supporter of Winchester Action on Climate Change (WinACC).

“We would like to respectfully point out the stark incompatibility of your two positions.

“Therefore we call upon you to withdraw your support for a scheme which is now hopelessly out of date due to the unprecedented rate of global warming. The Government’s Science and Technology Select Committee has just published its findings which conclude that to meet vital carbon reduction levels, we simply have to reduce the number of cars on the roads.

The letter says that if the work was to proceed, it would result in an increase in traffic and greenhouse gas emissions and “will have a significant detrimental effect on biodiversity”.

As previously reported, the Winchester Green Party echoed calls during the cabinet meeting last week to scrap the scheme, which aims to reconstruct the junction, a notorious motorway bottleneck.

Cllr Frank Pearson, speaking as a non-cabinet member, said the scheme needed to go ahead to stop vehicles caught in congestion diverting through the city centre and causing more air pollution.

He added that electric cars would help tackle the emissions fears, however cabinet member Cllr Kelsie Learney rejected that, saying: “Electric cars are not the answer to everything. They are not the solution to the climate crisis.”

Cllr Lynda Murphy added she would have preferred the money be invested in public transport.

In response to the backlash, a Highways England spokesman said: “With our proposals for improving the M3 at junction nine we are aiming to strike the right balance between upgrading this busy junction and respecting the environment. Congestion at the junction is a real issue for safety and has its own environmental cost.

Now the consultation on the scheme has closed, Highways England will review the responses. On the project website, it adds: “We expect to submit our application for development consent by the beginning of 2020 and, provided it is granted, work will start in 2021.”

Mr Brine has been approached for comment.