The Insulate Britain protester married to a Transport for London director tonight said she was ‘just a human being doing her best’ – as he stepped down from his £170,000-a-year role and perks that entitled her to free travel.
Cathy Eastburn, 54, had previously vowed to ‘unleash hell’ on drivers during her protesting, despite her long-term partner’s role.
She has been arrested several times during M25 blockades with fringe group Insulate Britain and for other activities with Extinction Rebellion.
Her husband public transport boss Benedict Plowden, 58, is leaving TfL at the end of the month after standing down a few weeks ago.
She said last night from the door of her private estate £1.6million property: ‘As you already know my husband works for TfL.
‘I’m working as an activist if you want to call it that.
‘But I’m just a human being doing my best.’
It is understood TfL bosses were aware of her views and actions, but insist it was Mr Plowden who resigned for unrelated reasons to ‘pursue new opportunities’.
He had most recently been in charge of the Covid Restart and Recovery Scheme.
TfL operates a reward scheme for staff, which includes free travel for workers and their partners.
It means Ms Eastburn may well have used her free public transport to get to her various stunts and protests, which included gluing herself to a DLR train at London’s Canary Wharf.
A Transport for London spokesperson said: ‘We do not comment on the activities of the families of our staff.
‘Ben Plowden has been a dedicated servant of London for many years – including playing a pivotal role in ensuring the London 2012 Games were a success.
‘He decided several weeks ago that he will be leaving TfL at the end of October to pursue other opportunities.’
Cathy Eastburn glued herself to the roof of a DLR train at London’s Canary Wharf station in 2019
An Insulate Britain protester arrested for blocking the M25 is married to Benedict Plowden, a Transport for London director in charge of public transport Covid recovery scheme
Ms Eastburn was entitled to free travel because she was a partner of a TfL worker
Ms Eastburn’s actions recently became the subject of a High Court injunction by TfL which means she could be jailed if she attempts to join a blockade again.
And £170,000-a-year Mr Plowden, who was charged with the Covid Restart and Recovery Scheme, has also been accused of ‘harbouring’ another eco-extremist in the South London home the couple share.
The arrangement has been called ‘staggeringly inappropriate’, The Sun reported.
Cambridge philosophy graduate Ms Eastburn has become one of Britain’s most prolific climate change activists.
In December 2019 she avoided jail for gluing herself to a train in London.
She was sentenced for halting Docklands Light Railway services at Canary Wharf station in east London as part of a series of protests carried out across the city.
Eastburn was given a 12-month conditional discharge alongside Mark Ovland, 36, and Luke Watson, 30, who both took part in the demonstration with her.
The trio had denied the charges of obstructing an engine or a carriage using a railway on April 17 this year, claiming the stunt was justified because of the threat of climate change.
Eastburn speaks to protesters from Extinction Rebellion, from the top of a boat, placed outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on July 15, 2019
Cathy Eastburn, 54, has vowed to ‘unleash hell’ on drivers even though her husband is public transport boss Benedict Plowden, 58
Sentencing them at Inner London Crown Court, Judge Silas Reid warned against protesting that would amount to them committing further criminal offences.
‘Each of you planned these offences and were prepared to go to prison for committing them,’ he said.
‘You each are clear that you did as you did to raise the alarm as to the dire situation you each believe the earth faces in respect of climate change.
But she was apprehended four times in nine days as protesters from the campaign group blocked London’s Orbital Motorway last week.
But even the sound therapist was surprised by the lack of police action. While protesting she set her out-of-office email to: ‘If you’re reading this, it is because I have been arrested and possibly put in prison on remand.’
But Ms Eastburn was released without charge without being interviewed each time she was arrested.
She told the Sunday Times she thought her actions were ‘proportionate’ because forcing drivers to sit in traffic for hours was ‘incomparable to the kind of chaos that’s coming down the track – major flooding and major food shortages’.
Mr Plowden meanwhile has been tasked with ‘getting London moving after the pandemic’, though last night it emerged he was leaving his post.
He has held a number of senior roles at TfL since joining in 2004, including Director of Borough Partnerships and Director of Strategy and Planning in Surface Transport.
Mr Plowden does have his own green credentials as well, described as a ‘leading environmental campaigner’ he founded climate group Living Streets which works to create a better walking environment across the country.
Ms Eastburn is taken away by police after her DLR stunt for Extinction Rebellion in 2019
Ms Eastburn was apprehended four times in nine days as protesters from the campaign group blocked London ‘s Orbital Motorway last week. Pictured: Being arrested in 2019
The £1.5million South London home he shares with Ms Eastburn is believed to have been used by activist David McKenny, 38, with whom Ms Eastburn pledged to ‘unleash hell’ on innocent drivers in the run up to next month’s COP26 climate summit.
Last night the couple were blasted by Tory MP and transport select committee member Greg Smith.
‘Insulate Britain has caused untold misery for individuals and businesses over recent weeks,’ he told The Sun.
‘It is an absolute kick in the teeth that someone senior in TfL — an arm of the British state — has been harbouring them in their house. This is unacceptable.’
London mayor Sadiq Khan, who oversees TfL, has previously accused Insulate Britain of risking people lives on busy roads.
‘You’re endangering your own life, you’re endangering the lives of those on the M25,’ he said previously.
‘They could be people rushing to get to a hospital, it could be they’re going to an appointment, and you’re jeopardising their safety by jumping in front of cars.’
BBC Climate Editor’s sister is Insulate Britain activist threatened with jail
ByTom Bedford and Jacinta Taylor For The Mail On Sunday
The sister of the BBC climate editor is among the activists causing chaos on Britain’s main roads.
Cordelia Rowlatt, sister of Justin, is among 113 Insulate Britain protesters named on a National Highways injunction that would allow courts to jail repeat offenders.
The 54-year-old has been arrested twice for blocking roads and previously campaigned with Extinction Rebellion.
In a recent video, she said: ‘A few months ago, I was in court and I was told that my right to protest against the lack of action against climate change was less important than the rights of people to go about their daily business, such as car drivers. Now that really is mad.’
Cordelia Rowlatt, sister of Justin, is among 113 Insulate Britain protesters named on a National Highways injunction that would allow courts to jail repeat offenders
Cordelia, who runs a small farm in Frome, Somerset, was interviewed by her brother in 2006 as part of the BBC’s Ethical Man project in which he spent a year trying to reduce his environmental impact.
Another activist named on the injunction, Cambridge University philosophy graduate Cathy Eastburn, 54, is one of Britain’s most prolific protesters and has stripped outside parliament, superglued herself to a commuter train and once shouted at Sir David Attenborough for ‘not telling the truth’.
She has had 12 arrests within three years but still says: ‘I am not a criminal.’
Well-connected Serena Schellenberg, a 60-year-old ‘freelance climate activist’ is also named on the injunction.
She is the daughter of the late flamboyant businessman and socialite, Keith Schellenberg, who controversially bought the Scottish island of Eigg in the 1970s.
Speaking of a previous arrest to society magazine, Tatler, she said: ‘I’ve got the advantage of being a white, middle-aged woman. It wouldn’t be so easy if I was black, and the other thing is my character witnesses are peers of the realm.’
Retired vicar Tim Hewes, who is also on the injunction, has been arrested six times by three different police forces during the Insulate Britain protests.
The 71-year-old previously sewed together his lips on one protest and was jailed for 14 days for contempt of court after gluing himself to furniture and livestreaming proceedings during a subsequent court hearing.
Rev Hewes remains an ordained Church of England clergyman despite his criminal activities.