Letters to the Editor - July 20, 2011

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KI gives food for thought

I REFER to the page two headline in the Herald of July, 13 - ‘Counting cost of KI’ - with reference to East Dunbartonshire Council facing a ‘black-hole’ of £7.5million.

With that background it is interesting to recall a number of statements from the past in relation to the funding of Kirkintilloch’s Initiative.

First, let’s go back to the heady days of October 2002, when within KI’s fact sheet of that time one finds the following question and answer setting out what one can reasonably assume to be the original position on funding of the then anticipated 14 schemes:

“When can we expect the first announcement about the Initiative being over budget?

“The constitution of the Initiative precludes it from spending more money than it can generate. Of course, current cost estimates change over time, as will income estimates. The principle on which the partnership operates, however, is that if there is not enough funding as a result of increasing costs then savings will have to be made from within the Initiative projects.”

Some food for thought there!

Secondly, let us revisit your paper’s page one headline of February 17, 2010 - “KI ‘gamble’ could prove costly.” Within that story the view is expressed that ‘Cash-strapped East Dunbartonshire Council is gambling millions of pounds on the sale of land for Kirkintilloch’s Initiative.’

That article referred to a council report apparently stating that (1) at then prevailing market values the council would be liable for £1.07million and (2) the figure of £1.07million could vary significantly ‘as a result of the volatility of market conditions’.

From the terms of your article of last week it looks as if the pendulum has swung dramatically to factor in a figure of £7.5million. How things have changed in just over a year!

When the plaudits for Kirkintilloch’s Initiative are being handed out, perhaps we should pause to remember the brief narrative outlined above.

Ian W Thomson,

Kirkintilloch Road,

Lenzie.

Greenbelt debate

THAT councillors say they cannot save the greenbelt shows that they do not understand its purpose.

This is not conserving rural landscapes, but preventing urban sprawl, meaning scattered building which is uneconomic to service.

The idea is to restrict temporarily the amount of land available for building so that development will be compact.

When the available lands are largely built upon, more is released by shifting the greenbelt boundaries.

For example, boundaries of the original and largest greenbelt, that for London, have been changed several times. It is larger than it ever was, but not in the same place. It has moved a long way outwards.

In fact, most greenbelts include large tracts of land which have little scenic, agricultural, recreational or conservation value.

That is the case in East Dunbartonshire. Indeed some parts of the local greenbelt would, in landscape terms, be greatly improved if used for housing, since there would be many more trees, flowers etc and so much more wildlife and biodiversity.

Natural England has pointed out that , due to changes in farming practices ,there is now far more wildlife (including birds) in towns than in adjacent countryside.

This can be seen at the Eastern edge of Bishopbriggs.

The largely bare fields, with few, if any grazing animals and little biodiversity, contrast with what appears to be a woodland adjacent. They are, however, housing estates.

As a rule of thumb, if about 15 per cent of an area has trees, it will appear from outside to be a woodland.

Even if/when all the areas to be allocated for development are used, the great majority of land in the shire will still be open and rural.

There are no proposals to build on the areas of greatest landscape value, such as the Campsies, the mosses and the banks of the Kelvin.

The over-riding need is for much more housing. Rates of building are the lowest for decades and most younger people who have grown up in the locality have little chance of being able to obtain their own homes in it.

The real conflict here is not between self-interested developers wanting to “tear up the local countryside”, as you put it, and public-spirited residents wanting to “conserve the environment”, but between older generations who have the good fortune to own homes in the area, thanks to past economic conditions, and younger ones, many of whom will be far worse off.

These tend not to vote in the same numbers as their elders, so their needs are given less attention by councillors.

What the objectors wish is to stop others getting what they have themselves.

They have just as much vested interests as developers since the fewer new homes are built the more valuable their own will be.

Most of them live in estates which were once countryside and which were provided by the developers they scorn.

If objections to the latters’ projects had prevailed they would not be where they are.

If any of these residents think that they live in “urban sprawl” and it would have been better if the land they occupy had been kept open and retained as greenbelt perhaps they will use your columns to say so.

I accept that the problems and conflicts have been greatly exacerbated by the use of the term “greenbelt” for land being temporarily withheld from development for economic reasons. This understandably conveys the impression that these are environmental.

Outside the British Isles the approach is clearer and the term “greenbelt” is not used.

Kevin Lawrie,

(via -email)

Praise for Townhead School

I WAS a pupil at Townhead School from 1964 to 1971.

In Primary 4 we had an Australian teacher who absolutely mesmerised us with stories of sand storms in the ‘outback’.

About a year later we were treated to a slide show of Fiji, held in the main hall at the Miners’ Institute, which Townhead School used as an assembly hall.

Again, I was captivated by the photos and stories of a far-off, exotic land.

Consequently, I had a life-long ambition to visit Australia and Fiji, which I achieved a few months ago, having spent almost six months travelling with my husband.

Both places lived up to my expectations and were worth the 40-year wait.

As well as receiving an excellent education, I have to thank my years at Townhead for giving me the ‘wanderlust’ and also the determination to achieve my dreams.

To add to the Kirky influence, we took a bar of Caurnie soap with us on our travels, which lasted all the way round the world.

Fiona F. Crowhurst

(née Thorburn of Muirhead House, Lenzie Road,

Kirkintilloch)

Chalk, Gravesend.

Call to ban the whip

ANIMAL Aid has long campaigned against the use of the whip in horse racing.

This reform is long overdue. Many jockeys repeatedly misuse the whip. Even when they are found guilty of misconduct, they still keep their winnings.

Towcaster racecourse has announced it wishes to ban jockeys from beating horses with the whip, and will disqualify those who do so.

Animal Aid has called on all of Britain’s racecourses to follow Towcaster’s example.

Noreen Cockburn,

Lanrig Road,

Chryston.

Cancer Research Fund launches Wildflower Appeal

WORLD Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is giving people the chance to remember lost loved ones with a living memorial of wildflowers.

The annual Wildflower Appeal sees the charity provide packs of Heartsease flowers – a member of the pansy family – to those who make a donation towards cancer prevention.

The seeds, donated by Chase Garden Seeds, can then be scattered and when grown they form a touching and permanent reminder of a lost relative or friend. Alternatively people can select a wildflower from WCRF’s ‘virtual meadow’ at www.wcrf-uk.org/wildflower.

Donations fund scientific research across the UK and overseas, as well as education programmes that raise awareness of how to reduce cancer risk.

Paul Fretwell,

Head of Fundraising, WCRF.