Letter:Best wayto keep neighbours sweet

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Sir: Jack Straw may be right, as you suggest in your leading article of 18 September, to try and reframe the law on neighbour nuisance. The Community Safety Order, carrying a possible imprisonment penalty for infringement, is certainly a radical measure. However, it fails to recognise a basic fact: the vast majority of neighbour disputes are two-sided affairs in which problems have escalated, often from small beginnings.

Labour would do well to consider alternatives to measures that run the risk of escalating hostility even further. Mediation, as an effective means of conflict resolution, is increasingly accepted and encouraged in a variety of arenas. In the field of neighbour disputes there are about 25 voluntary mediation services nationwide. These services build consensus in the community by helping neighbours in the peaceful resolution of disputes and by teaching negotiating skills. All services are independent and have the usual struggle to raise funds.

What about a pledge to support such measures? Mediation offers a far greater hope for the lasting resolution of conflict than an imposed order such as the one Mr Straw is advocating.


Chair, Oxford Community Mediation