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Tuesday 8 November 2011
Letters: Planning and climate change
Planning blight on the planet
The report (7 November) showing the deplorable record of the UK's increasing carbon intensity makes me despair, especially since I am just about to do battle once again with my local planning authority.
I have a small organic farm in a windy spot and I would like to erect a l5m wind turbine to offset the huge amounts of heating oil I otherwise need to use to heat my isolated property.
I will probably not live long to profit by this, but I have children and grandchildren and it is for them that I shall be going to appeal against the myopic attitude of planning in this county
What is the use of an area of natural beauty if it is to be blighted by climate change within a few decades? Is our green and pleasant land to be reduced to a scrubby desert because we couldn't bear to look at a wind turbine?
In a logical world of planning, every landowner with 50 acres or more should be obliged to be self-sufficient in power, either with photovoltaic or wind or both – everything and anything to improve the shameful statistics shown by your report.
P A Reid
Sparsholt Down, Oxfordshire
In your article "BP faces challenge to Shetland drilling" (26 October), the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, admits that capping a deep-water well in the event of a blow-out would be impossible if waves were over five metres high. He claims this doesn't matter as drilling would never take place in such conditions.
But a blow-out can occur at any time during a well's operating lifetime, not only when drilling is taking place. Extreme weather is commonplace to the west of Shetland. Oil companies, such as BP, have to contend with gale-force winds, long Atlantic swells and heavy seas. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a blow-out occurs during a period of severe weather, and it's at this point that BP's plan falls short. The truth is there is no quick and effective way to deal with a blow-out in very deep water.
As always, prevention is better than cure. This means Mr Huhne must stop issuing new deep-water licences and instead put in place measures to help us use less oil in the first place. Backing strong European laws to make the cars we drive more efficient would be a good start.
Greenpeace UK, London N1
Familiar sound of war-drums over Iran
Recent news stories you have carried reporting Iranian missile testing, Israeli reaction to the threat and the British and Americans explicitly restating that the option of military action against Iran remains on the table cast a dark shadow over the prospect of peace in the region.
The period preceding an announcement of military action has usually passed in this fashion. We have consistently witnessed escalation of the hostile rhetoric and an increase in reporting that catalogues the wrongdoing of the regime. Following this kind of build-up, any military intervention (for example Libya) can be retrospectively justified.
If the decision has been made to attack Iran then the inevitable loss of life, the destruction of a community and collapse of a sovereign state and its infrastructure have already been deemed an acceptable cost for whatever the aims of the attack are. This high price is however unlikely to be paid by Britain, America, Israel or even the wealthiest ruling class in Iran. It is the average citizen who will bear the brunt of this decision, and we will then tell them that the cost was worth it.
I hope our governments are thinking about these issues and doing the right thing.
Andrew Isaac Meso
At last some clear criticism of Iran has surfaced. President Clinton and other Western leaders tried for too long to placate the Iranian regime in the hope that they could persuade them to abandon their nuclear plans. They even succumbed to Ahmadinejad's request to label a democratic Iranian opposition group, resident in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, as terrorists.
Amnesty International reports that these 3,250 Iranians are in extreme danger of attack from Iraqi forces, sent by al-Maliki at the instigation of the mullahs. In April 34 of them, all unarmed civilians, were killed and over 300 wounded.
We helped the rebels in Benghazi. The brave residents of Camp Ashraf stand for a democratic, secular Iran and urgently need our support and that of the UN.
Self-indulgent protest at St Paul's
Your editorial on the protests at St Paul's (1 November) is long on criticism of the Church of England and short on analysis of the protesters; you simply assume their rightness.
But we have not heard from the protesters anything to suggest that they have positive proposals about the economy that are more convincing than the policies of the administration or the opposition.
Their title is Occupy the London Stock Exchange but, having been thwarted in that ambition, they have chosen to cause inconvenience to those who visit, work and worship in a building which is not devoted to the pursuit of economic profit. They are not destitute. Their camp is an expression of self-indulgence, not the result of necessity.
The worst fault of your editorial is its failure to empathise with the cathedral authorities. They have been subjected to intense criticism by you and other commentators simply because they want St Paul's to be returned to its proper purpose. What would you do if the protesters camped outside your offices? Would you be any more forbearing?
C D C Armstrong
The acid test for the anti-capitalist protesters will come when it snows. Will their attendance at the Tent University be adversely affected by the prospect of a warm bed in a nice house?
Nation trapped in Downton Abbey
Twenty-eight years ago I moved back to England after many years in Finland and Germany. Although advanced in some spheres, the country I returned to was, on the whole, still as old-fashioned as when I had left, riddled with class prejudice and an inexplicable narrow-minded arrogance regarding anything new or "invented and practised elsewhere"'.
In 1997, listening to the defeat of the corrupt Conservative government on the radio while working abroad, I wept for joy – only too soon afterwards to see the new government take us into an illegal war.
And now the Coalition Government seems to model its vision for Britain on what it has been watching on Sunday evenings – Downton Abbey.
Lorries in the M5 disaster
Motorway pile-ups such the M5 crash are mercifully rare and the cause will not be established for some time, yet the usual suspects are already using this disaster as yet another stick to beat car drivers.
The cause of other major motorway pile-ups down the years has been drivers driving too fast for the conditions. What determines the severity of a major pile-up is the part HGVs play. In the M5 crash jack-knifed lorries blocked the whole width of the carriageway and more HGVs crashed into the stationary traffic behind that barrier, some of which had apparently actually managed to stop in time to avoid hitting the vehicles in front.
The disparity between the kinetic energy of a heavily laden lorry and a car is enormous and it is about time that disparity was acknowledged and something done to lessen the damage HGVs can do in an accident. A 40-ton lorry at 57mph carries 20 times the energy of a one ton car at 80mph and at those speeds the car may well be able to stop in a shorter distance as well.
Requiring loaded lorries to be able to stop as quickly as cars travelling at the same speed would be a step in the right direction, as would anti jack-knife devices. More rigorous enforcement of the rules governing drivers' working conditions would be relatively easy to achieve.
Keighley, West Yorkshire
How to encourage whistleblowers
Charles Cawley's suggestion that whistleblowing should be an obligation written into all contracts of employment is most welcome (letter, 4 November). Some professions already require their members to report malpractice by their colleagues.
I know that chartered accountants are required to do so under their ethical code. However, since no chartered accountant has ever been disciplined for failing to blow the whistle – in spite of the scale of accounting malpractice in the run-up to the financial crisis – this obligation has obviously been rather neglected.
I have come to the conclusion that the only way to encourage wistleblowers to come forward is to pay them. This already happens in the United States. Under the Dodd-Frank Act whistleblowers are entitled to receive up to 30 per cent of the proceeds of any penalties imposed against wrongdoers.
Terrified of not wearing a poppy
Is it compulsory for all TV presenters, guests on TV and politicians to wear remembrance poppies? One might think we live in a totalitarian state where anyone who doesn't obey "the rule" knows they will damage their career. Did we fight two world wars so that all of these people should feel terrified of not wearing a poppy?
Robert Fisk's article of 5 November was one of the bravest and most independent acts of journalism for years.
If they all wear the poppy for "genuine" reasons then it means that we have a horrifically conformist group of people controlling politics and the media, and not a single independent, rebel or freethinker.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Proper curbs on bank lending
My grandfather was a bank agent (read manager today) and died in 1940 while still an employee. At that time there were strict limits imposed by the bank on the amount agents could lend.
He was evidently a kindly man and had overrun that limit with two of his customers. The bank secured its loss by claiming the excess borrowing from his estate and passing on the debt for the executors to recover. A tough lesson but one that banks of today should consider.
Linlithgow, West Lothian
All together now
Greek people will no doubt soon be hearing from their new coalition government that "We're all in it together."
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