Letters: Britain needs sustainable new towns – not more slapdash developments

Fixing the roof: housebuilding in Derbyshire
Fixing the roof: housebuilding in Derbyshire - Rui Vieira/PA

SIR – We are already seeing Labour adopt an irrational, urban-centric approach to improving housing numbers (Letters, July 9).

The simple allocation of targets obliges rural councils to build in locations where there are insufficient schools, roads, hospitals and jobs. The pressure generated by these requirements overwhelms many smaller communities.

The policy needs to be less arbitrary and more focused on providing sustainable communities in new towns, along the lines of Harlow, Crawley and Stevenage, which were developed in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nigel Carter
Devizes, Wiltshire

SIR – The building of a large new estate on fields just outside Chester, without the requisite associated infrastructure, has resulted in a huge increase of traffic on the already busy roads into the city, existing medical centres being overrun, and the loss of green space enjoyed for decades by residents in long-established nearby homes.

Angela Mohan

SIR – Green belts (Letters, July 9) provide health and welfare benefits, prevent flooding and sequester carbon. They offer clean air, biodiversity, local fresh food and space for recreation, in addition to preventing urban sprawl and encouraging urban regeneration. Yet they are under greater threat than ever before.

There is still no clear definition of what constitutes “grey belt”, and no action to stop developers deliberately destroying the green belt in order to make it grey. Moreover, focusing on green belt land will relieve the pressure to develop brownfield sites, which can be released more quickly to provide affordable homes.

Given the current shortage of construction workers, releasing green belt land for development will lead to further land-banking by large developers, when there are already more than a million homes with planning permission that have been left unbuilt since 2015.

Richard Knox-Johnston
Chairman, London Green Belt Council
Ashtead, Kent

SIR – For six years I lived in the American Midwest. Most domestic housing was timber-framed, yet still able to withstand the hostile elements.

Compared with the traditional bricks-and-mortar construction of the UK, the speed with which these houses could be built was remarkable. They have never caught on here, but, given our country’s urgent needs, they should surely be considered.

There are now plenty of examples of best practice in America and Europe, and there is the added advantage that this construction technique uses renewable resources.

John Bath
Clevedon, Somerset

Biden’s choice

SIR – Joe Biden has said that he will only step aside as the Democratic presidential candidate if “the Lord Almighty” comes down and tells him to (report, July 7).

President Biden needs to be reassured by all those who support him that his presidency has been a success so far, and that historians will recognise his value – not just over the past three years, but for the decades that he has served his country.

As a devout Catholic, he might wish to recall Pope Benedict XVI, who chose to relinquish the papacy in 2013 – the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years – citing age and failing health. The pope’s decision was man-made and was universally applauded.

President Biden has a precedent.

Dr S K Goolamali
Northwood, Middlesex

SIR – After a disastrous debate performance, Joe Biden apparently “fought back” by visiting diners at a place called The Waffle House.

Either his media advisers are bereft of a sense of irony or else they were delivering a thinly veiled message.

Tim Youngman
Tonbridge, Kent

Recruitment deterrent

SIR – Labour’s plan to significantly reduce the initial period in which a new employee may be dismissed (Comment, July 7) poses a serious threat to all businesses – particularly the smaller ones that cannot afford expensive HR departments.

Currently, there is a probationary period when a new employee may be found to be unsuitable for the role by reason of poor attitude, ability or work ethic. Were employees able to claim “unfair dismissal” from day one, they could challenge this and the employer would have to defend it, wasting time and money. The policy would act as a deterrent to taking on new staff.

The new Government should reflect very carefully before rushing into damaging legislation.

David S Baber
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

SIR – South Cambridgeshire council claims that its four-day week saves money, improves services and should be extended (report, July 9). I can’t help thinking that, if staff completed all tasks in four days rather than the normal five, then targets were either too low to start with, or the council had 20 per cent more staff than required.

K Mungham
Potto, North Yorkshire

A blow for veterans

SIR – It is very disappointing that Sir Keir Starmer is not filling the post of minister for veterans (report, July 8).

Johnny Mercer, the last incumbent, shone a light on the specific needs of veterans, who are largely forgotten by the Ministry of Defence once they have left the Armed Forces. I fear this move will dilute the role of government in supporting veterans, particularly those suffering with mental health issues.

The responsibility for helping veterans overcome difficulties should not lie solely with charities.

Lt Col Jeremy Prescott (retd)
Southsea, Hampshire

Wimbledon gap

SIR – The toe-curling post-match interviews at Wimbledon (Letters, July 9) are made even more ridiculous by the excessive distance between the presenter and player.

Is this post-Covid virtue-signalling by the BBC?

Kirsty Blunt
Sedgeford, Norfolk

The next Tory leader

SIR – If the Conservative parliamentary party did not want the membership to select Liz Truss as prime minister (Letters, July 9), then it should not have put her forward as a candidate. Her selection by members is a poor excuse to now deny them the final role in the next leadership election.

The party would do better to offer members more than one candidate whom MPs could fully get behind.

Victoria Hawkins
Ludlow, Shropshire

Cancer bell boost

SIR – I was so pleased to read Noel Radcliffe’s letter (July 8) regarding the cancer bell ceremony at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. I’ve been undergoing radiotherapy at Rosemere Cancer Centre in Preston, which also has a bell to ring following completion of treatment. I was happy to ring it.

A gentleman undergoing a similar procedure was wary of doing the same. He was shy and retiring in nature. I spoke to him about how good it might make him feel. With the support of my wife and a radiographer, we persuaded him to have a go. It was a loud and lusty ding-a-ling, and he said: “That did me a world of good”.

If you have a chance to clang the bell, I can recommend it.

Ian Duckworth
Billington, Lancashire

A dog at Number 10

SIR – You report (July 6) that Sir Keir Starmer is thinking of getting a German Shepherd for his children.

He needs to remember that Downing Street has a resident cat – and put him first. Or consider breeds suitable for cats.

Christine Wilson
Whiteabbey, Co Antrim

SIR – I wish the Starmer children luck in persuading their parents to get a dog. Having lived with cats and German Shepherds most of my life, I can assure them Larry will remain top dogs. Size doesn’t matter, as Larry’s dominance over the local foxes demonstrates.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – In the UK, there are about 100,000 dogs waiting for homes. To garner public affection, Sir Keir Starmer should forget about buying pedigree pups and seek out a rescue dog instead.

Please, Sir Keir – adopt, don’t buy.

Catherine Orr
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

One good reason to learn to play the bagpipes

Pipes are calling: The Young Bagpipe Player, by Ferdinand Willaert (1861-1938)
Pipes are calling: The Young Bagpipe Player, by Ferdinand Willaert (1861-1938) - Painters/Alamy/Alamy

SIR – Alasdair Ogilvy (Letters, July 4) recalls the piper who came to play at his wedding and reception in Sussex in 1989.

My grandson, aged 13, is learning to play the bagpipes in Perthshire, and he knows how thrilled I am.

He informed his father that his reason for learning them is that he wants to play at my funeral – which will be in Sussex.

What a send-off I will have.

Sheila Mortimer
Cuckfield, West Sussex

Wartime gratitude preserved in the larder

SIR – I was born during the Second World War, when dozens of U-boats were sinking Allied ships at a rate quicker than they could be replaced, and a food shortage threatened.

My mother kept a tin of pasteurised powdered whole milk from those days, still unopened, in her larder, out of heart-felt appreciation for the country from which it came and the sailors who risked their lives to bring it to us.

It would have been produced in Madison, Wisconsin, when the United States was still neutral, as the instructions on the tin are in English, German, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew.

It remains on our larder shelf (Letters, July 9).

Andrew Murray

SIR – One of the tins of chocolate issued during the Second Boer War (Letters, July 9) was recently found in the National Library of Australia among the papers of the Australian poet Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson. Best known for writing Waltzing Matilda, he likely got it from a soldier while in South Africa as a war correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald.

One Canadian soldier wrote home: “I have been offered £5 for mine; at the Cape as much as £10 is paid” – such were they valued.

Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – The blocks of chocolate sent to South Africa were, I believe, actually intended to be drunk, rather than eaten. In my youth I tried a piece, after scraping off the green coating. It was quite powdery and I couldn’t recommend the flavour.

Martin Bastone
East Grinstead, West Sussex

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