'There was nothing 'Plane Stupid' about storming parliament'

Speaking for the first time since her roof-top protest on the Houses of Parliament, Tamsin Omond, a church administrator from Belsize Park, explains why she and four other campaigners took on the authorities to oppose a third runway at Heathrow

Katie Davies

PEWS were switched for placards this week when a church administrator from Belsize Park climbed up onto the roof of Parliament to protest at plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

Tamsin Omond, 23, who grew up in West Hampstead and now works for The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin in Primrose Hill, surprised family and friends when she was photographed as one of the five campaigners who stormed the Houses of Parliament last Wednesday.

And she has won support across the area - with Camden Council formally announcing its opposition to the runway on Friday.

Speaking fully about the protest for the first time, Ms Omond said it was time politicians stopped and listened to their campaign.

"We were getting so frustrated," she said. "BAA just want to expand without considering the ecological impact of what they are doing, but more so they have been allowed to do it by the government.

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"In the same week Gordon Brown says we need tough decisions to tackle climate change, Ruth Kelly comes out and says the government is backing this. We have to take this campaign to the people making the policy decisions - 160,000 people are dying already every year because of climate change.

"Climate change is something we have to do something about right now, this is absolutely urgent and the third runway is something tangible we can stop."

Since the high-profile demonstration, campaigners have rallied to oppose the extension which, as well as increasing CO2 emissions, would see more planes with flight paths over Regent's Park and Hampstead Heath.

Last Friday Camden Council signed up to oppose the scheme because of "irreversible damage" to residents.

Ms Omond, a recent Cambridge graduate and former Westminster School girl, was one of five campaigners from the protest group Plane Stupid who climbed onto the roof. The group's founder, Leo Murray, who also scaled the roof, is from Archway.

Following the protest, the campaigners were questioned by police and bailed until April. A 26-year-old parliamentary pass holder from Westminster was also questioned and bailed to the same date.

Since Wednesday the campaigners have all been the subject of media scrutiny.

"The whole interest in our individual profiles was very weird," Ms Omond said.

"Suddenly you can't just run outside and have a fag. I didn't tell anyone I was doing it so it was a bit of a shock for my family on the day, but they are supportive, as is the church.

"I've kept a low profile until now. We wanted interest to be on the message and the feedback on that has been positive. It shows opposing the third runway is not that revolutionary an idea - no one really wants it."

Ms Omond, whose parents run an arts foundation in West Hampstead, described her family as one which "tends to steer clear of politics". She joined Plane Stupid in university and is a supporter of social justice charities such as Amnesty International.

She and her fellow campaigners unfurled banners on top of Parliament and threw paper aeroplanes, which they claim were documents received via Freedom of Information requests suggesting the government consultation on the runway, which closed on Wednesday, was fixed.

The group is plotting to voice its opposition at the opening of Heathrow terminal five on March 27 with a "flashmob" style gathering of thousands of campaigners.

Mr Omond added: "I never thought direct action would be something necessary in my lifetime and I never thought there would be something so important to make me do it, but then I started reading about climate change.

"Britain has influence abroad. If we can lead the way on these issues we can encourage others. That would make me very proud to be English again."