Letters: Sustainable development

Beware a planning free-for-all
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Your leading article of 12 November appears to offer uncritical support for the impending planning free-for-all that many fear. Had you specified that land must be released – but exclusively for affordable housing for locals or for projects in areas far away from the overheated southeast – then many would rush to agree.

But you make no consideration of why our house builders seemingly cannot meet rising demand in the same country where a big new superstore opens pretty much every week – often when no real demand at all can be discerned.

Many suspect that the builders are not plotting to build affordable homes, but waiting for the chance to build lucrative luxury (second?) homes in the greenbelt. Worse, such a flood-tide cannot be opened without simultaneously opening the opportunity to even less acceptable uses.

Alan Hallsworth

Waterlooville, Hampshire

What we need is not just housing, but housing that people who are not home owners can actually afford. This will never come about until the Government tackles the admittedly extremely thorny question of land values.

If all the unused land currently owned by government and councils had housing built on it, without the outrageous additional costs generated by planning permission for the land, and if developers were removed from the equation, houses could almost become affordable. There are plenty of brownfield sites, where a fair proportion of the neccessary infrastructure is already in place.

Near where I live, one of the most underprivileged areas in England is crying out for housing for the younger generation. A developer is building houses nearby and before he got planning permission he stated that there would be "affordable housing" to the statutory level available for purchase. Try explaining that to the youngsters round here who will have to find a quarter of a million pounds to get on the housing ladder. The five million people on waiting lists are waiting for the price of housing to come down, and this will not happen unless Government addresses the whole financial equation that creates the ridiculous prices currently being asked.

Jim Cottis

Emsworth, Hampshire

Your leading article does not address the moderate and sensible proposals of the National Trust. It is not a case of houses or green spaces; there can be both. Environmentalists accept the need for development; they are against ill-thought-out, badly designed development, unnecessarily in the wrong place which can mar the countryside for all time and of which there is plenty of evidence from the past.

Planning is needed to avoid this; no doubt the process can be amended and made to respond more quickly, but there should not be a presumption one way or the other.

William Fullerton

London SW1

Action, not just talk, is needed at the cathedral

The Archbishop of Canterbury is right to put discussion about policies into the debate about the injustice of current national economies highlighted by the Occupy LSX protest. But the implementation of the Tobin tax is a long way off and St Paul's Cathedral discussing ethics with the City of London sounds more academic than of relevance to the immediate economic injustice in the UK imposed by the policies of successive governments.

Poverty-level welfare payments, to the increasing number of unemployed, have been cut, while the prices of food and fuel are rising, creating debt, rent arrears and misery. Shelter reports that there are over one million children in overcrowded housing, a rise of 54,000 in the past two years, and government figures show that the number of households in temporary accommodation stood at 48,330 at the end of June 2011. There has been no coherent housing policy in the UK for decades.

The Church Commissioners for England, with a portfolio of both commercial and residential poverty worth billions, are well placed to develop – with politicians of all parties – new, just policies for land and housing.

The Rev Paul Nicolson

Chair, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

London SW1

I recently spent a day at the tent city at St Paul's and spoke to as many protesters as possible. I could find nothing to disagree with in the camp, or their nine-point statement of aims. I then visited the cathedral, where the etched glass entrance rotating doors proclaimed: "This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of Heaven." Once inside I was faced with a notice that read, "Admission charges: Adult £14:50." So now I know where capitalism starts and stops.

Paul Middleton

Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire

In marching on the St Paul's anti-capitalism protesters (report, 12 November), the thugs of the English Defence League have done us all a great service. It's now very clear who stands against the 99 per cent who the protesters aim to stand up for: it's the banksters, the EDL, and... er, that's about it.

Rupert Read


Are people like James Everest and Paul Tyler (letters, 12 November) prepared to condemn the police's equally heavy-handed response to the English Defence League? If not, why not?

Mark Taha

London SE26

Eurocrats vs the ballot box

With Greece and Italy losing prime ministers, the whole eurozone is in danger of running out of time to prevent the worst economic mire yet. But the idea that sovereign independently elected governments can be removed by grey suits in Brussels is preposterous.

The banking crises, and lack of regulation of financial mavericks globally, has left a host of world leaders looking for miracle cures to revive stagnant markets.

It does look as if we are in for 10 or 20 years of political change in Europe, as any government that hurts the pockets of its electorate will be dismissed by them, but it is better for democracy that the ballot box not the eurocrats change our sovereign elected governments.

Paul Raybould


I can't believe that most readers would agree with your leading article (12 November), that Italy is getting rid of Berlusconi and replacing him with a dull "economist who is also a keen cyclist".

Surely what every country wants just now is a leader who understands that budgets ultimately have to be balanced and that folk have to do their bit for the environment?

Patrick Corbett


The appointment of Mario Monti as Italy's next Prime Minister would be a deeply undemocratic move. Monti is not a policitian. He has never stood for office nor won a democratic mandate in an election. Instead he has been appointed to a succession of political positions by Silivio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi. It would be a shame were Italy, a nation where the ancient Roman model of governance has helped shape modern democracy, should allow a leader to be installed in such a way.

Stefan Simanowitz

London NW3

Pandas given a lifeline by zoos

I am sad that Will Travers, of the Born Free Foundation, describes the plan to fly in bamboo for the new giant pandas at Edinburgh zoo as "madness" (report, 8 November).

I work as a lecturer in tourism management just 10 miles from the Giant Panda Research Base eco-tourism park, north of Chengdu, Sichuan. I can therefore see the magnificent giant pandas whenever I wish and watch them enjoying locally grown bamboo, purchased from local small farmers.

Panda conservation is taken very seriously in China and the research park is now successfully breeding giant pandas by both natural copulation and artificial insemination. They hope one day for the giant panda to be returned to the wild, as all are agreed this is where these beautiful, gentle animals belong.

The negotiations required for a panda to leave China take years with the authorities demanding, as they should, the highest of standards of care for these creatures.

The giant panda is an endangered animal, mainly due to loss of habitat, and a symbol of human folly with nature. The two pandas to be shortly travelling to Edinburgh zoo will live not just in the hope of a successful mating, but will more importantly act to educate the people who go to visit them about the importance of nature conservation.

Rosemary Caldicott

Chengdu University of Technology,

Sichuan, China

Like Mike McCarthy (10 November) I noted the killing of the final Vietnamese rhino and like him pondered what it said of our species. In the end we will be defined by our transience. In a flip of geological insignificance, we will be gone – like a plague that explodes in virulence then collapses. The planet will then recover and life regenerate amid the rubble of our hubristic aspirations. Our tombstone need bear only one word: greed.

Dominic Kirkham


Public school prejudice?

Why is it that when a crime is committed by an ex-public schoolboy (or girl) you deem it appropriate to include this information ("Public schoolboy gets life for 'gangster' hit", 11 November)? If the educational background of a criminal is essential to understanding the crime then consistency should surely be applied, but I rarely see "grammar school pupil commits crime" headlines, or any relating to whether a criminal went to a comprehensive school.

Providing such information suggests another agenda: namely, that those who attended fee-paying schools should be judged differently from those who did not. This is a form of prejudice which, applied to any other social group, would rightly be judged indefensible.

Dr David James

Crowthorne, Berkshire

A way around airport queues

Some years ago I was returning home and, before getting a boarding pass, I had to go to a small kiosk and purchase an "ingress docket". Why not arrange an ingress stamp at UK airports for a small sum? It might raise enough money to afford extra staff at passport control and avoid the queues.

John Brown


Let victims have their say

Nick Chadwick (Letters, 31 October) criticises the so recently bereaved parents of Jo Yeates for wishing for capital punishment and a "living hell" for her convicted murderer. Mr Chadwick asks what useful purpose is served by publishing victims' statements of this sort.

I think he is being unkind. I abhor capital punishment but I can understand the impotent rage and grief that led to the statement. If it makes the parents feel one little bit better, let them say it.

Jan Cook

South Nutfield, Surrey

Funny business at the stadium

In the light of the recent comical carry on over the re-naming of Newcastle United's football stadium (report, 10 November) should it not be christened Sid James Park?

Mark Robertson

East Boldon, Tyne & Wear