You are right in saying the argument for a 10-turbine wind farm at Moorsyde must be about more than fresh air. However, the slant that you took in your editorial recently may have been generated from hot air.
The real debate is not about Richard Claxton, his role or his eco-warrior status. Had you met Richard for more than 10 minutes in a normal setting, then you would quickly realise he is no gung-ho ecoactivist but a kind, gentle, considerate man who happens to be a Greenpeace volunteer. If he is an eco-warrior, I dread to think what that makes the MAG spokesperson.
I got publicly involved in the debate because of his vociferous attitude towards one of my friends. Within minutes, the MAG spokesperson was literally bending down into my face (I am of average height) between four and six inches from my nose, bellowing away. I had to tell him to back off so that I could breathe.
I found him a very frustrating man to have near me - he was constantly interrupting conversations or haranguing someone. It was this aspect of the exchange that your journalist decided to focus upon rather than the issues under discussion.
We have not yet had a public meeting because we know opponents will try to hijack it. Their intimidating tactics have meant that the silent majority prefer not to get involved. For every word we can write, they write at least 100 more. At the moment, they seem to have direct access to your ear, whilst you are not prepared to lend it to us.
We never have assumed that members of MAG are against wind farms per se (we understand many of their arguments, even though we don't agree with them). Furthermore, it may surprise you to know that we do appreciate the beauty of our wonderful landscape. However, we believe that wind farms do not spoil this beauty and in some respects they enhance it. Having these 10 gentle giants in our own backyard would provide us with a symbol of hope.
In the end, if we are to embrace wind power as a viable part of the renewables mix, they have to be in someone's backyard. They also have to be commercially viable and size and number do matter in this respect.
We are unhappy with you taking sides and not presenting a balanced argument. You forget that we are a group of local residents who speak to local people and know and respect their opinions.
Poll after poll referenced in the Sustainable Development Commission literature shows around 80% of people want wind farms. We know the local high school sixth form took a vote and 90% were in favour of the Moorsyde project.
Initial research carried out by the company shows that over 60% of the people of Berwick want this development. But note that many didn't reply (around 91%) though this still means a higher number than expected returned forms.
The people of Berwick would not like it if you were seeking to undermine their voice, whether they were for or against anything. Are you undermining the 300 people who put their signatures and addresses on paper (many of them added extra comments) and the 200 or so who wrote in to the planning department before our group existed?
Have you been to Berwick and looked at the planning files and read the concerns and desires of its residents? Furthermore, the fact that we could get 100 letters in one day in favour of the project (whilst meeting only around 8% against it) shows our county is not far off national figures. If you have evidence other than MAG's hearsay to dispute our take on the silent majority, then please present it to support your argument.
Do you live in Berwick? Do you know who we are and what backgrounds in the community we have? You haven't, as yet, even got my details correct. The plain matter of fact is that the majority of people of this region are for it, but would not want to go out to a meeting to be heckled or shouted at by activists.
I am aware that it is difficult to report the goings on of this most beautiful northerly place from a far-off desk in Newcastle. But please consider what people really are saying and doing from both sides of the argument.
Dr Joe Lannon, Berwick-upon-Tweed
People have already made views clear
THE story unfolding in The Journal (20/12) concerning the latest Mori poll showing the electorate massively in favour of scrapping the antiquated Northumberland County Council is also one of the people crying out for local government in the impending reorganisation of councils in Northumberland.
It must be remembered that the poll results were exactly reflected in the poll undertaken by the Boundary Commission not three years ago, and also reflected in the public referendum: they do not want remote government.
Quite simply, the people have decided they want a new system of two unitary councils to reflect the rural and the urban areas of Northumberland. A single authority does not now have a mandate from the people, who are the ones who really count in this whole issue.
The wishes of the people are perfectly clear, as are the wishes of all four MPs from all three main parties, all the district councils have voted overwhelmingly in favour of two councils, whilst the leader of the county council has so far denied members of his council a chance to air their views, until, we believe, just before their document is submitted to the Government.
The musings of a council spokeswoman from County Hall only serve to hide the fact that the leaders' views of replacing a council based in Morpeth covering the whole county with a council based in Morpeth covering the whole county is as bizarre as it is astounding.
This is not new - just more of the same!
I hope the county councillors do get to vote on these changes, however late in the day, and whilst I appreciate "turkeys don't vote for Christmas", I would ask they spend a little time over the festive period deliberating on whether or not to support the clear views of the people of the county and allow a smooth transition to two councils. What a belated Christmas present that would be.
Merry Christmas to all in Northumberland.
Coun Bob Watson, Blyth Valley Borough Council
Government protects Ireland's communities
WITH respect to the article "Landlords free to take in students" (21/12) the impression is given that the policy on student housing which is going out for public consultation is watered down compared with the original version.
This is emphatically not the case.
The revised version is different from the original in that within the designated areas (areas of housing mix ) planning rules will be used to maintain, so far as is possible, the mix of housing types. Thus there will be a presumption that conversion of the loft space to bedrooms in upper Tyneside flats will not be allowed.
In the original policy such conversions would have been allowed if the bedrooms had not been intended for student use. In this sense it is a stronger policy than the previous version.
The weakness of the planning system in this area lies in the fact that the city council cannot intervene when what had been a family house is used as a student house for up to six students. Since these two very different uses are in the same use class (C3 - dwelling houses), planning permission for this change is not required (in England).
It is interesting to note that in Northern Ireland planning permission is required for such a change of use.
Unfortunately, when it reviewed the use classes in 2005, the Labour Government decided that there was no reason to change the situation with respect to dwelling houses, even though it had recently (2004) changed the situation in Northern Ireland.
When the change was made in Northern Ireland, the Environment Minister, Angela Smith, said "By tightening planning control over houses in multiple occupancy, this legislation will help address public concerns about the growth in the number of HMOs [houses in multiple occupation] in certain areas of Northern Ireland and the impact this is having on local communities. The new use classes order overhauls legislation that has been in place, with minimal change, since 1989 and is a further step in modernising the planning processes."
It is a pity that her colleagues in the Labour Government who are responsible for the planning rules in England did not seem to be listening.
Ron Armstrong, Liberal Democrat councillor for North Jesmond
One Parliament needed
FIRST, a Cornishman writing to push the assemblies and now "Red Ken": what is that all about?
The people of the North-East of England told Mr Prescott and all his Government what they could do with them, so do they really think we will take any notice of a Cornishman and Mr Livingstone, chopping England up into 12 mini parliaments?
England only needs one Parliament, and it won't be long in coming.
E and H JUSTICE Campaigners for an English Parliament
List of failures in Iraq seems inexhaustible
THE British tank commander killed in Iraq because of an "unforgivable and inexcusable" delay in providing body armour to troops is just the latest in a seemingly inexhaustible list of Blair's failures over the invasion of Iraq (Tank commander's death `inexcusable', 19/12).
Sergeant Steve Roberts's name can be added to the estimated 650,000 Iraqis dead, 126 British troops dead and the dangerous chaos dominating many parts of the country.
This is the balance sheet nearly four years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Then there is the recent Chatham House report suggesting that the Prime Minister has had little or no influence on Washington during his time as Prime Minister.
It says the post-9/11 decision to invade Iraq was a terrible mistake and the current débâcle will have policy repercussions for many years to come.
The report says the root failure of Tony Blair's foreign policy has been its inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way despite the sacrifice - military, political and financial - that the United Kingdom has made.
The recent Iraq Survey Group (ISG) report also brought into stark relief the failings of the British Parliament to hold the Government to account.
We have been denied any serious assessment of what went wrong and what we should do about it.
Parliament has refused even to hold a serious debate. The speaker of the House of Commons recently rejected an amendment to the Queen's Speech on the issue, even though over 100 MPs across the parties had signed it.
Failure even to debate the war, let alone withdraw the troops in line with the majority thinking in Britain, is now being compounded by the Government proposing to renew the Trident nuclear submarine system at a minimum cost of £25bn.
The anti-war movement has campaigned against the "war on terror" from day one. Everything we said turned out to be true - and everything the Government told us was false.
Few now defend the Iraq war and there is growing unease at the war in Afghanistan. Trident's replacement is also unpopular - especially when people find out how much it will cost.
Yet our MPs and Government have refused to listen - so we have to take our campaign to them. The Stop the War Coalition, alongside CND, is calling a national demonstration on February 24 to oppose Tony Blair's plans for new weapons of mass destruction in Britain and to call for the immediate withdrawal of the British Army from Iraq.
Anyone wishing to join those of us from the North-East on the demonstration should come to our next meeting: 7pm at Friends' Meeting House, Jesmond, Newcastle, on January 8, or contact Tyneside Stop the War Coalition at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tony Dowling, Tyneside Stop the War Coalition.