11th February 2003

Sally Oliver Steals the Show at Community Conference

A renewed determination to win emerged from the Stop Stansted Expansion ‘Working Together To Win’ community conference held last Sunday (9 February) at the Stansted Hilton Hotel.

The afternoon event, sponsored by Uttlesford District Council, was attended by almost 200 delegates and VIPs who packed into the conference suite for a dynamic mix of presentations, ideas workshops and addresses. Representatives from other communities in the south east threatened by airport expansion plans – including Heathrow, Luton and Cliffe – also attended.

Among the speakers were local MPs Sir Alan Haselhurst, Alan Hurst, Mark Prisk and Christopher Beazley MEP. Councillor Jim Ketteridge, Chairman of Uttlesford District Council opened the conference with a welcome address paying tribute to the success of the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign.

Members of the campaign team also reported back on progress to date and outlined the way forward, with presentations from Chairman Norman Mead, Peter Sanders who drew together the campaign’s expert response to the government consultation, and communications consultant Carol Barbone whose appointment as Campaign Director was announced at the conference.

But it was Sally Oliver, mother of celebrity chef Jamie, who stole the audience’s hearts with her moving account of why the fight against expansion needs to go on.

“All of my friends have a story to tell similar to mine – very simple, nothing exciting – but extremely important and dear to us. I grew up in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, and my father commuted up to the City each day. I can still remember how proud he was, all those years ago, of what he had achieved for his young family – to be able to bring his children up in a lovely place. This surely is what we all strive for.”

“Nearly 30 years ago,” she continued, “my husband and I moved to Clavering; we truly thought that we’d found the perfect place to bring up our family. We were full of hopes and dreams – this area encompassed all the things that you could possibly want for your children. Lovely unspoilt villages and towns, wonderful close-knit communities and pretty countryside. Our own children loved growing up here, they played happily in the surrounding fields, went fishing, had little picnics – it sounds idyllic – and it was.”

“We certainly don’t want this to change dramatically. Why would we?” she asked, adding: “I’m surprised that there are those who question our outrage – and even suggest that we should feel guilty for having such sentiments. Our own children are married now with children of their own and they so love it here that this is where they will both bring up their children.”

The government’s plans, she explained, would threaten the quality of life of over three quarters of a million people with noise blight and urbanisation resulting from the creation of the world’s largest airport at Stansted if the plans are left to go ahead unchecked.

Clavering, for example, where Sally runs The Cricketers pub with husband Trevor, would be a village no more, she warned: “It would be part of the urban sprawl all the way up to Cambridge. It will become impossible to drive to Cambridge and park, or for commuters to get a seat on a train to London at peak times.”

“This isn’t silly nostalgia,” she told the audience. “We all want progress, but there’s no moderation whatsoever in these ill-considered proposals. My own family, just as any family in Britain, wants only the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to grow up healthy, happy and with a reasonable quality of life. We care about our future generations and that’s why this is worth fighting for – and also why my family and I are personally committed to campaigning on behalf of Stop Stansted Expansion.”

Sally also described the battle against expansion as a war: “There is a real threat of invasion into our environment and a threat to our children’s health. The other day, I was listening to Tony Blair speaking about why we should go to war with Iraq. He said that we mustn’t take the easy option and look short term, but look long term – to the future. Well, I sincerely hope that this government adopts exactly that same philosophy when considering our environment.”

She concluded with a call to protest conspicuously to show the government the strength of local feeling. “The government cannot destroy this area if enough people protest, but we need a torrent of objections, not just a few, in fact, so many that we just cannot be ignored.”

Sally also read a message from Jamie to the conference reaffirming his support to the campaign.

Jamie Oliver’s message to the campaign is reproduced below:

I’d like to express my support for the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign, with congratulations on what has been achieved so far.Living near Stansted airport, we expect to bear our fair share, but on this scale it just isn’t fair to the people of this area and nor would it be fair to the people of any area.

The government has been advised that these new plans would increase global warming, but if they are still determined to go ahead, then an offshore airport must be seriously considered – something really cutting edge – where aircraft take off and land on runways out at sea, so that aircraft noise and pollution is kept well away from inhabited and environmentally sensitive areas.

I really hope that we can persuade the government to include this idea in the next proposals. I know you’ll do a great job in the next few months!

All the best
Jamie Oliver

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits