Councillor marks quarter century serving Stansted residents
PUBLISHED: 15:06 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 15:06 16 June 2020
A Stansted councillor has celebrated 25 years at Stansted Parish Council and 18 years at Uttlesford District Council - and has shared his thoughts on local politics, past and present, with its highlights and its challenges.
Councillor Geoffrey Sell, a Liberal Democrat, has lived in Stansted for most of his life. He has been a member of Stansted Mountfitchet Parish Council since 1995, and served as Chairman for eight years between 2006 and 2014.
The parish council has given him an engraved tankard to celebrate his recent career milestone.
“I promised not to drink too much,” he joked, adding: “I am now one of the longest serving councillors in the district.”
He said one of the lessons he learned early on in his journey was that the Parish Council depends on a lot of other authorities.
“You have to have patience because some things take time to get results. If you think you can change the world immediately, it doesn’t work like that.”
But one of the things he has always been proud of is working with people from all political affiliations, which he thinks is a key to success: “You can’t achieve things by yourself, you have to take people with you,” he said. He was inspired by his parents, who were “very involved in village life”, he recalls.
His education was entirely focused on politics: he has a Bachelor from Newcastle, a Master and a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London.
“I have always been interested in politics, and in the community, because I have quite deep roots in Stansted,” he said.
“Having lived here most of my life, brought up my family here, I care about what happens in Stansted, and I am not someone who just sits back and moans. I’d rather get involved and get things sorted.”
Interested in being part of the bigger picture, he joined the district council 18 years ago, representing Stansted North, and chaired it between 2017 and 2018.
During his involvement, the Liberal Democrats only had political control over the district council between 2003 and 2007. Reflecting on those times, when he says the Lib Dems attempted to devolve power, he says he has “always been opposed to the cabinet system of the local government.”
“We should go back to the committee system,” he said.
He would also like to see more help for the district’s small businesses, due to the higher percentage of self-employed people than the national average.
Until May 2019, when Residents for Uttlesford swept to power, the administration had been Conservative. However, he believes you can argue a case and be successful even when you are in a minority.
“In the last administration I was campaigning for police constable support officers. In Stansted, we had a PCSO start this year,” he recalls.
He shared some of his career highlights. In 2013, he worked with residents to defer a planning application to build houses near a conservation area in Stansted and was successful.
As a district council Chairman, he met a lot of people and organisations, and raised money for good causes such as the Essex Wildlife Trust: “They have a reserve in the Stansted area, and I felt that raising money for them would help. They planted quite a few trees, which is good, because that is the heart of Stansted, and what loads of people use.”
One of his proudest moments was being part of the planning committee which refused a third Stansted Airport runway.
Asked if he has ever taken a decision which did not reflect the wishes of the majority of Stansted residents, he said: “My job is to relay residents’ concerns to the council, and normally those wishes, as someone who lives in Stansted, their concerns are my concerns. We got planning applications where individuals felt negatively about them, but with major applications we have coincided.”
He said he supported a development of 55 houses on Elms Farm, Stansted, which “not everyone was happy about” as it is in the green belt – but that he believes the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
“I think we made the right decision because they provided us about seven acres for community use. We are still looking to see what we are going to do. We also got access to Stansted park. It will give people the option to go walking in the countryside.”
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