Germaine Greer and Jamie Oliver square up over airport expansion

It could turn out to be one of the strangest conservation duels ever fought on English soil - a bitter tug-of-Tarmac between two of Britain's most instantly recognisable figures.

Germaine Greer has pitted herself against a powerful protest lobby led by Jamie Oliver over the future of thousands of acres of unspoilt Essex countryside under threat from plans to build an extra runway at Stansted airport. In one corner, the blokeish young multi-millionaire celebrity chef and lately champion of the aesthetics of beautiful villages and landscape. In the other, the chief cheerleader of the feminist cause and lately champion of the aesthetics of beautiful young men. Jamie and Germaine, your flight may be about to land.

Next week the Department for Transport is expected to reveal its preferred site, or sites, for a dramatic expansion in airport capacity in the UK - the climax of 18 months of furious debate that has seen an A-to-Z of Britain's conservation groups line up against the hard-nosed strategists and money men of the global airline and airport industry, the Government and the Treasury.

At first, the Government assessed dozens of airports and green-field sites for expansion, but it is now believed that just two locations are under consideration: Stansted and Heathrow. At the former, 3,000 acres of countryside could be eaten up by development, with 196 planes taking off or landing every hour on up to three new runways. Dozens of historic buildings would vanish or be harmed by noise and pollution. An enlarged Stansted would be one of the biggest airports in the world.

Anti-expansion groups have burgeoned at many of the key sites "optioned" for possible development, but at Stansted the row over the threat to local villages, landscape and wildlife has taken on a life of its own, not least through the tapping of a rich seam of famous figures - including Terry Waite and the legendary libel lawyer Peter Carter-Ruck - who live near the airport and who are appalled at the prospect of it becoming "the new Heathrow". All, that is, apart from one.

Germaine Greer, who lives in an ancient farmhouse on the outer fringe of the area affected by an increase in jet noise should expansion go ahead, is all for growth. In a series of broadsides the Melbourne-born scourge of intellectual sloppiness rounded on local opponents to expansion. "The future of the South-east is suburbia," she has said. "The people who live in rural peace and blessedness in north Essex are not sturdy peasantry but professionals and business people who want to deny the commercial reality from which they make their living. Airports are the cities of the future."

She argues that what relative rural peace there once may have been in her corner of Essex has been lost to light aircraft and heavy traffic.

Carol Barbone, of Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), a campaign group that last week harried Whitehall and the head office of the British Airports Authority with a 70-car motorcade, said: "Just about everyone apart from Germaine is against the plans."

Alan Dean, leader of Uttlesford district council and campaigner against expansion, visited Professor Greer at her home, hoping to help her see the error of her ways. He was instead granted one of the most severe doorstep lashings of his political life. "She took a robust position," he said. "She was all for another Heathrow."

But over at Clavering, a short drive from Professor Greer's house, swords are being sharpened in readiness for the next skirmish against the expanders and their supporters. Clavering is home to Jamie Oliver and his family. His mother, Sally, is a key anti-expansion campaigner. Both Mr Oliver and his wife, Jules, were born and grew up in the area, and now live in a £900,000 16th-century manor.

Last week, Mr Oliver told The Independent on Sunday he was disappointed by Professor Greer's stance on the airport. "I'm not sure how involved she is in the community," he said, "but everyone I know living around here is worried.

"I remember going on a march about Stansted expansion when I was about eight years old. It seems to me that governments just use time to get what they want in the end. I am against the destruction of swathes of countryside and the increase in noise and pollution."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Advisor - (HR, L&D) - Rugby

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and well established busi...

Recruitment Genius: Product Owner - Business Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Product Owner/Business Analyst is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Technician

£28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea