The government’s planning scheme is designed to keep local democracy as far away as possible

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Robert Jenrick on Westferry development

Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, does not seem to be entirely au fait with his new planning proposals.

He is on record as saying that planning decisions under the government’s new scheme will have “local democracy at the heart of the process”. However, it has been pointed out that the move to the proposed system lessens the possibility of accountability or input from the public.

At the moment, in England, we have a two-stage procedure where the public and councillors can make observations on individual planning applications and the creation of a local plan. The new “reforms” would allow only one chance for local oversight to be exercised (ie when the design code is drawn up).

It is worth saying too that a much more imaginative approach than that taken by Jenrick is Amsterdam’s, which has adapted the “doughnut economics” model as a city-level approach to planning.

The framework there – shaped like a doughnut and combining the idea of planetary boundaries with the corresponding concept of social boundaries – was proposed to balance economic and social needs with environmental considerations. It’s a truly holistic approach which seems a great deal more imaginative than the market-driven plans now being put forward.

The Rev Andrew McLuskey
Address supplied

What do estate agents think?

Can we please have some honest opinion from estate agents? Those of us who buy local newspapers have clearly noticed the absence of advertisements from property agents in respect of residential sales, commercial and rental.

Some firms may get some publicity through editorial content but where are those pages of advertisements showing us photographs of properties for sale?

We have been forced into reading for years about the government’s plans to build an endless amount of houses. Each year, they fall short. Meanwhile, government projects are funded by us, the taxpayer, and we are running out of money.

Do tell us how many properties are actually being sold and how many are genuinely on the market. Countless people may have had to accept lower figures than they wanted to achieve. More to the point, are values to fall?

If so, then now is not the time to buy. I foresee many estate agents closing down their offices. Solicitors will be affected by fewer conveyance transactions to deal with. Mortgage lenders will be very cautious as to whom they provide a loan, and the amount they are prepared to lend.

Developers won’t be building many sites if they do not feel confident of selling the new homes either should we get a massive uplift in unemployment. Landlords are going to have to bring down rents.

I started out in an estate agency aged 16, in 1969 and I am now retired. I have never known such a hopeless situation.

Richard F Grant
Burley

Carbon neutral homes

To make any significant progress in making new homes carbon neutral, the government needs to think beyond improvements to insulation.

Architects should be required to design for maximum passive solar heating with the appropriate orientation of houses and placement of windows, etc. No fireplaces or chimneys should be installed. There should be no provision of gas for heating or cooking. Every house should be fitted with solar panels and battery storage. At least one charge point for electric cars should be fitted. Whenever possible, a heat exchange system for an entire estate should be installed and connected to underfloor heating for all properties.

None of these ideas are new and there are indications that they are being adopted already. They should be written into planning regulations as soon as is practical. Some of these provisions will raise building costs but will be more expensive if retrofitted and will significantly reduce expenditure on energy for new owners.

Let’s get a move on. Time is running out.

John Peacock
Somerset

50 million masks

The 50 million masks that are unfit for frontline NHS staff in clinical settings might well be fine for public use. The government could make them available free in lockdown areas to encourage mask-wearing compliance and get some benefit from the £150m of public money spent on them.

Alan Pack
Canterbury

A vaccine by the US election

Unlike many researchers and infectious disease experts, I fervently believe Donald Trump’s claim that a vaccine will be ready by election day. While cynics and naysayers may view this proclamation as hogwash, their bias will be forcefully disproved come November, when a potent antidote to the pathogen stoutly emerges.

This vaccine will not be produced by Moderna, Pfizer, or AstraZeneca, and it will not be injected or absorbed. This remedy has existed for 77 years and was created with the help of the wife of a used car salesman in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The official name of the vaccine is Joseph Biden Jr, and while a minority of anti-vaxxers mock it as “Sleepy Joe”, an enthused public will ultimately endorse the treatment as “JB2”, and countless American lives will be saved.

Andrew Ginsburg
Southport

Trump celebrates another candidate vaccine

Ban hare coursing

It’s long past time to ban hare coursing. The Irish government can take the first step by refusing to grant permits this year for hares to be torn from their homes in the countryside, tormented, and forced to run for their lives for this “sport”.

It’s hard to imagine anything more barbaric: from the terrifying chase – during which sensitive hares, a protected species in Ireland, have been known to rupture internal organs as they flee the dogs – to the moment they find themselves surrounded, petrified and exhausted. The dogs are muzzled, but this does little to reduce injuries and fatalities, as they can still forcibly strike the hares, pin them to the ground, and toss them in the air – breaking their fragile bones, dislocating hips, fracturing spines, and causing internal bleeding.

Hare coursing is an archaic blood sport that has no place in modern society – it was rightfully made illegal in Northern Ireland and most other European countries aeons ago. It’s high time we followed suit and let gentle hares live in peace.

John Carmody
Limerick

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