IoS letters, emails & online postings (16 February 2014)



So, only the planning system (ie, local democracy) is more to blame for Britain's housing crisis than the Campaign to Protect Rural England ("Housing is broken, how can we fix it?", 9 February). This is flattering in its way for a small charity such as CPRE, but it is also absurd.

CPRE has been about as positive about house building as it is possible for a conservation charity to be. Even our recent charter to save our countryside has more house building as one of its three aims. Some housing must go on greenfield land, but most should go on previously built-on sites, known as brownfield, now lying derelict across England – enough for 400,000 homes in London alone. Or would you prefer even more inappropriately sited, poor-quality houses? Have you not heard about the floods?

Shaun Spiers

Chief executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England, London SE1

The main fault for the lack of building lies with the builders themselves. For example, here, in Bath and North East Somerset, there are two very large brownfield sites that could accommodate well over 1,000 houses and yet no building is taking place years after they were acquired by developers. Local housing needs could easily be met without building in the green belt but the local authority has no choice but to include some in its core strategy because of these delays, and because developers refuse to build a sufficient proportion of affordable homes on brownfield sites, despite one of them being a supposed social housing provider. The only way to resolve this is for local authorities to be funded to build social housing to replace that sold off to private householders.

N J T Long

Keynsham, Somerset

Ben Chu says that the only solution is more new homes, but how about reducing the population?

Rob Edwards

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Fracking isn't the answer to our energy problems – even with sweeteners for local people ("Power from the people to the people", 9 February). Shale gas is a fossil fuel, and even the fracking firm Cuadrilla has said it won't cut household energy bills.

Instead of paying people to accept dirty companies making money on their doorstep, while risking water supplies and the environment, the Government should make it easier for everyone to benefit from renewable energy projects near to where they live. A good start would be to ensure that all larger renewable energy developments have mandatory local-share offers.

Anna Watson

Energy campaigner, Friends of the Earth

London N1

I have no "great gardening dilemma" over whether or not to buy peat-based composts. Destroying a delicate ecosystem with unknown consequences (peat extraction releases huge amounts of CO2, too!) cannot be justified for the sake of recreational gardeners to maybe grow a slightly bigger bean.

Perhaps local flower shows could lead the way by introducing, peat-free fruit, veg and flower classes to show how easy it is to grow beautiful, nutritious, delicious plants without leaving a deeply damaged world for our great-grandchildren to inherit. I haven't used peat for more than 30 years and no one's ever complained that my tomatoes aren't up to snuff!

Tean Mitchell

Project manager

Devon Sustainable Coppice Partnership

The Scotch Whisky Association and our members oppose minimum unit pricing of alcohol because we believe it will not do what it is supposed to ("Ditching Diageo's drams is a Scot's duty", 2 February).

There are better ways of dealing with the problem. We are a founding member of the Scottish Government Alcohol Industry Partnership, a long-term collaboration to encourage responsible consumption. We also recently launched the Scotch Whisky Action Fund, which will finance projects working to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland. Existing measures seem to be working: alcohol-related deaths have fallen by a third since 2003.

Moreover, we believe minimum pricing would breach European Union trade laws.

David Frost

Chief executive

Scotch Whisky Association

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