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Saturday 17 September 2011
Letters: Planning law leaves wildlife in peril
Peter Marren ("Our wildlife needs a voice", 14 September) and Michael McCarthy, your environment editor, are right to highlight the worsening state of our wildlife and the muzzling of Natural England.
Without a definition of "sustainable development" and with a "presumption in favour" of development, the National Planning Policy Framework will disable wildlife's meagre planning protection. Very local decision-making will mean that planning applications are determined by local authorities that do not have an ecologist, let alone expertise in bug conservation.
The removal of the national target on building houses on brownfield sites is a silver lining. It was an objective blind to the amazing wildlife value of many quarries, spoil heaps and other habitats on previously developed land.
In response to the recent Defra England biodiversity strategy, Buglife, with Plantlife, Butterfly Conservation and the RSPB, welcomed aspects of the strategy, including intentions to increase areas of wildlife habitat and link them together, but stated: "The strategy will fail unless it is followed up with an urgent programme of action for the recovery of threatened species".
Defra responded that they would be "working up prioritised action for the Adder, Herring and Dormouse" – read into that what you want! The charities' offered to meet with Defra to explain our concerns and strengthen the partnership. The response from the Biodiversity Minister, Richard Benyon, suggests that they do not understand our concerns and do not wish to discuss them.
Buglife, The Invertebrate Conservation Trust
Peter Marren is right that "nature in Britain" needs a voice, but so does wildlife around the world. To say that we should focus only on biodiversity in Britain is like saying that we shouldn't care about global poverty. The policies of developed countries influence both rates of global biodiversity loss and the level of global poverty – and few would disagree that with such influence comes responsibility.
WWT leads the conservation breeding programme for the "exotic and endangered spoon-billed sandpiper from Asia" mentioned by Marren, although we spend most of our funds on UK conservation, and relatively little overseas.
We can agree that wildlife needs a voice. But all wildlife needs a voice, not just our wildlife. Marren said that if birds and butterflies in Britain could speak, they would tell you that they have had a lousy year. Be assured their year would have been far worse were it not for the efforts of the organisations that he criticises.
Dr Debbie Pain
Director of Conservation
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
Peter Marren raises an important issue in the debate on planning when he points out that little has been said about the fate of plants and animals displaced by new developments.
Many commentators have argued in favour of developing brownfield sites in preference to green fields, yet often the latter may be ecologically sterile farmland while many brownfield sites harbour rare and threatened species of wild flowers and invertebrates.
We need a strong and well-enforced planning system that does not follow simplistic rules but treats each development proposal and site on its merits. One of the key objectives of such a system should be the maintenance of biodiversity.
Newcastle upon Tyne
A chance to reform A-levels
The proposal to schedule A-level exams earlier in the year comes from Ucas and is intended to make the process of university admissions easier and fairer. But there are huge potential knock-on implications for pre-university education, which call into question the whole idea of modular A-levels.
If universities have access to full A-level results on which to base their decisions on admissions, why would they need AS-levels at the end of the first year? Why indeed?
There lies before us the delicious prospect of a chance to construct coherent, progressive courses that put teaching before testing and leave the formal examination to the end; clearing away some of the hoops, and the modular mentality that staccato assessment has spawned.
Director of Innovation and Learning, The Girls' Day School Trust, London SW1
Morale boost for free Libya
It is disappointing to find The Independent joining the band of easily bored malcontents that seem to form the bulk of the British press (leading article, 16 September). Libya had slipped from the news so thoroughly in recent days that it has taken the visit of Cameron and Sarkozy to bring it back into focus.
It seems churlish to take such a cynical view of the heart-warmingly genuine scenes of gratitude and enthusiasm that greeted the two leaders who have been so instrumental in helping to remove a dictator. Mousa Ibrahim, the Gaddafi spokesman now in hiding, must have been delighted to hear his own claims of a colonial oil grab echoed in the British press.
The press seems to expect that the behaviour of all members of a brutally oppressed people should be beyond reproach when the tables are turned. This should not be "of greater concern" to Libya's friends and allies than the final liberation and unification of this large and diverse country. By focusing on the less than perfect events of a courageous war of liberation, and harping on about the obvious difficulties that will have to be faced, it is the press that is out of step with the timetable of the revolution.
The visit of Cameron and Sarkozy was exactly what was needed to give a morale boost to the Libyans, and if did the two leaders some political good in the process, they both deserved it.
Johann Hari's apology
There are five reasons why I read The Independent. The least of these is its reporting of world and domestic events, creditable though this is. The four major reasons are Robert Fisk, with whom I always agree; Howard Jacobson, with whom I rarely agree; Yasmin Alibhai-Brown who convinces me to agree with things I disagree with, and then, most important of all, Johann Hari, who shows for me the consequences of agreeing or disagreeing with my own prejudices.
Johann Hari may feel that he has betrayed the high standards of the profession he follows ("I have betrayed my readers' trust", 15 September); that is his prerogative. But I can assure him that he has not betrayed me and many other readers like me.
When you compare the actions to which he confess to those of politicians and bankers who have cheated us, lied to us, deceived us and robbed us while smiling in our faces, his actions pale into insignificance. They smiled at us while they were doing it, and they continue to smile at us even now, without even a hint of an apology ever likely to pass their lips. In contrast, his apology was as heart-warming as it was painful to read, and I thank him for it.
I await his speedy return.
Rhos on Sea, North Wales
I supported the stance of The Independent during the Iraq War, at a time when the "dodgy dossier" controversy underlined the malign consequences of presentational deceit.
In this age of distrust, it is vital that commentators are wholly truthful and able to stand by their writing based upon a record of integrity. This is not the case with your columnist Johann Hari, who has been unmasked as an egotistical liar and fraud. Your newspaper will be untrustworthy as long as it employs the discredited Mr Hari.
Linlithgow, West Lothian
Family life forgotten
The reason children are being neglected by working parents, as highlighted in a Unicef report, is a fundamental problem with the British nuclear family. In British culture, children are expected to fly the parental nest as soon as possible, have 2.4 offspring, take on vast mortgages and struggle through life by themselves, all in the name of independence.
Wouldn't it be better for children to benefit from their parents' work and stay in the parental home? There are after all plenty of cultures where three generations live under the same roof. Grandparents help with the care of children, and the reduced financial commitments mean that one parent can stay at home.
Beyond this, cohesive families make for cohesive communities.
Murray won't accept defeat
Why should Andy Murray accept that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are simply better than he is (James Lawton, 12 September)? Murray is a world-level professional sportsman and would never merely accept that a player standing opposite him is better – especially not in terms of talent, which at this level is a term used with little relevance when discussing the differences between players. More meaningless yet is that old favourite of the sports hack – that a person was or was not "born" to achieve something.
All players at the top level have supreme talent – the margins between them in this regard are negligible. The recipe for winning top competitions in any sport includes talent, but there are other, more relevant factors, which players and their teams have the possibility to influence.
Cameron and Co are determinedly pursuing policies designed to make the UK more like the US. America has one in six people living below the poverty line. What is Cameron's target? Will he settle for 10 million Britons living in poverty, or does he intend to beat the US percentage?
You report that scientists are "pioneering a novel way of recycling that turns orange peel into plastic". Arguably the cause of recycling will be better served when they can turn plastic into orange peel.
Perspectives on rogue traders
Save those bonuses
I imagine the bankers at UBS are finding themselves in a quandary. How can they possibly justify their bonuses if they've somehow managed not to notice a billion or so missing from the petty cash.
It's easy, boys: just stick an "only"' in front of the £1.3bn and it's bonuses all round again!
Let them go to the wall
The alleged rogue trader scandal that has so far cost UBS £1.3bn shows that George Osborne is either stupid or just protecting his rich banker friends by allowing them until 2019 to separate their "casino" and "high street" banking sections. They must be allowed to go to the wall the same as any other capitalist venture if they cannot be bothered to keep an eye on their own business dealings, which are nothing to do with the taxpayers.
Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
Are Kweku Adaboli and his supervisors at UBS examples of the talent which would exit Britain if bankers' bonuses were curbed and higher earners made to pay more income tax?
While I find it shocking how UBS have managed to lose around £1.3bn as a result of an "unauthorised" trade, I can't help wondering how many "unauthorised" trades have occurred in recent times and just how much money UBS made from them. Or are they only unauthorised when they result in a loss?
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