YEP Letters: October 17

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Check out today’s YEP letters

Fix UK’s pothole problems first

M Meeson, Leeds

It beggars belief that there will be tax rises to boost the National Health Service when we are giving £4bn of aid cash to improve roads and railways abroad.

Fixing potholes in India and £265m on a new roads in Pakistan when our own road system is full of potholes and subsidence. What rubs salt in the wounds is that India has a space programme and is spending £10bn on a fleet of warships.

This money would be better spent on the NHS and our own road and rail system before dishing out taxpayers’ cash on other countries.

Findings are step forward for opposing groups

Coun Andrew Carter CBE, Leader of the Conservative Group, Leeds City Council

I read with amazement the comments made by Coun Richard Lewis, Executive Board Member for Regeneration, Transport and Planning, (‘Plan would end speculation’, YEP, October 8) following the recent interim findings of the Leeds Site Allocation Plan (SAP) inspector.

To try to claim that the inspector is agreeing with the council’s approach to greenbelt protection is clearly beyond a joke. For five years Coun Lewis and his colleagues in the Labour administration have been ignoring local residents, local campaign groups and my group, as the main opposition on the council.

Collectively we have been warning the administration that their housing target of 70,000 is too high, undeliverable and would result in housing on greenbelt sites throughout the city.

It is the ruling administration that has allocated these sites for housing in the first place, it is them who have ignored all efforts to change their mind, and there have been many, and it is them who last week had an independent inspector outright reject their plans to build on 33 greenbelt sites, some in open countryside, across the city.

The inspector rightly rejected the administration’s plans to deliver 6,450 homes on these sites. These interim findings are a significant step forward for groups like ourselves who have opposed the Labour council’s plans from the outset.

These groups appeared throughout the recent public inquiry on the SAP, like myself and my colleagues appearing every day, but where was Coun Lewis, where were other senior figures from the administration?

Coun Lewis appeared once to open proceedings and as far as I know the rest was left to council officers, with one or two exceptions they were nowhere to be seen.

The next step in our campaign is to finally get rid of the 70,000 housing target up to 2028, one that Coun Lewis has stuck to throughout this process and the real reason why the inspector rejected these 33 sites.

This number will likely come down as part of a further public inquiry process and we hope to get this number as low as possible nearer to 42,000 rather than 70,000.

The truth of this sorry affair is that the administration were fully prepared to build on all of the greenbelt sites in their plan, and there are still plenty left in it, until it became abundantly clear through the publication of a Government consultation in September 2017,

Planning for the right homes in the right places, that the figure was far too high, at that stage even they could no longer justify their 70,000 target.

If only they had listened to us five years ago, they would not be in this mess and Leeds would be in a far better place.

Air pollution’s impact on children

Rebecca Dallison, Campaigns manager, Unicef UK

One in three children in the UK is growing up in areas with unsafe levels of air pollution, and we know that Leeds is one of the worst offenders. Government figures clearly show that every day, children living in Leeds are exposed to illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide. Research published in September by Unicef UK proved that children are breathing in 60% of this air pollution on the school run and while at school. We cannot continue to ignore this issue.

Toxic emissions can leave children with lasting health impacts – stunted lung growth, increased risk of asthma and even damaged brain development.

The government predicts that harmful and illegal levels of pollution are likely to persist for at least another ten years, meaning millions of children in Leeds and across the UK could be at risk for many years to come. That’s a very long time in the early life of a child.

But there are things we can do now to make a difference and that’s why Unicef UK is campaigning to reduce children’s exposure to toxic air, when and where they are proven to be most at risk. Leeds is one of the first local authorities that are consulting on clean air plans in 2019, so the time to use your voice is now.

If you are passionate about tackling toxic air in Leeds, or your child has experienced health problems as a result of air pollution, please get in touch: campaigns@unicef.org.uk.

Solution to HS2 problem?

Michael Bradley, Leeds

Regarding the potential impact of HS2, I have a potential solution.

Simply use the existing station and run trains through straight through it!

Although this potentially would require a new eastern link and some significant track straightening to the west, this would be a lot less costly in comparison to the destruction required for a brand new station that would only serve Leeds.

A new terminus station could be constructed at Bradford, or maybe trains could simply run straight through too and terminate in Manchester? Drastically cutting down the costs of this highly controversial rail line. A station in Bradford would have to be built upon the site of the original Bradford Forster Square Station that is now the Forster Square Retail Park, that is already the perfect height, unlike the proposed station in Leeds that will have to be high off the ground just to get it over the many roads and rivers on the South Bank. Although this may be controversial, is the demolition of this out-of-town style retail park within Bradford city centre such a bad thing? Not only could this reduce costs for HS2 but this could potentially bring down the costs of HS3, now Northern Powerhouse Rail as well.

According to a HS2 spokesperson: “Construction of the railway between the West Midlands and Leeds is not expected to start for at least five years so there is time to plan.”

HS2 has already had an impact on our lives

Rosemary Nattriss, Church Fenton, Tadcaster

MAY I gently correct the remark that HS2 ‘may impact residents’ quality of life’. It has already happened.

HS2 has been impacting our lives since January 28, 2013, at 10.50 am when we were informed that our home, and my husband’s home for almost 90 years, was to be demolished.

In the words of the song (misquoted), the railway will run through the middle of the house.

We have tried to continue to live our lives as if nothing was happening. It has been difficult, sometimes almost impossible.

We were told that it would be simple to apply for HS2 to buy our house. It isn’t. We were told we would be bought out at market value. We still have to test this remark.

People have said to look for a bungalow in the village. How can we stay here and watch the destruction of our home and garden? My husband’s grandfather built our home when he was a ganger on the railway lines in the area.

He and his wife saved hard over the years so we are trying to appreciate the poetic justice that the railway gave us the house and the railway will take it away. We will also try to appreciate the advantages of high speed communications from wherever we end up!

‘Ridiculous’ insurance costs

Ernest Lundy, by email

Knowing that car insurance is obligatory, wouldn’t one think that offers of free meals, theatre tickets, meercat dolls and meals as incentives are unnecessary?

They would be better advised to provide lawful drivers with impeccable records reasonable priced cover instead of the ridiculous prices imposed on the old. This matter has been brought to the attention of MPs and the press on numerous occasions but no-one seems to care, an oversight which puts many old people who are attempting to remain independent off the road.

Remarkably enough, MPs contacted have agreed that ageism is being brought into the equation, but still they do nothing. One can only wonder why?

Inequality in UK

John Appleyard, Liversedge

Two events last week highlighted the inequality that exists in this country.

First the recommendation that senior judges be given an annual pay rise of almost £60,000 even though the Tory government has said in the past that no public employee should be paid more than the Prime Minister.The Prime Minister currently earns £150,402 per year, while the rise for judges would put them on £240,000 per year.

Secondly, the tax payer has stumped up £2m for a royal wedding of the ninth in line to the throne, Princess Eugenie who is hardly known to anyone outside royal circles, not to mention saturated coverage on TV.

The royal family, like many at the top of the pile in this country, have not worked hard for their wealth, they inherited it.