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Why is new group to be based near city?

It was with interest that I read of the appointment of Dr Helen Philips as chief executive of Natural England (The Journal, March 23), the new environmental body that brings together the Rural Development Service, English Nature and the Landscape together with the access and recreation division of the Countryside Agency.

With new offices planned at Newburn Riverside, Newcastle, why is it that the people who have such a big say in the way the countryside is managed need to be based in such close proximity to the city? Would it have been totally out of the question to set up such an important body in Haltwhistle or Bellingham and provide some quality jobs for the university educated sons and daughters of the local rural population?

What I notice in the countryside now is a lot of stone wall rebuilding, hill drains being filled in, new hedges along with the obligatory double fencing and diversification into mole farming in the Alston district.

With the upland wading birds and black grouse now on the up, and the farmers on the simplified single payments, the impression given is that agriculture and the countryside is doing okay.

D GRAY, Hexham, Northumberland

Journal seeks stories on Queen from readers

THE Queen will be 80 on April 21. To celebrate this momentous occasion, The Journal will be running a series of features looking back over her life.

We would love to hear from any readers with stories to share. Perhaps you have had the honour to meet Her Majesty on one of her many visits to the region. Or you were one of the hundreds of thousands who poured into London to celebrate her Coronation in June 1953.

Please either post any stories and photographs to me at The Journal, Groat Market, Newcastle, NE1 1ED, or email: jane.hall@ncjmedia.co.uk, remembering to include your contact telephone number.

We look forward to hearing from you.

JANE HALL, Features Editor, The Journal, Newcastle

Labour charade of `consultation'

AS a former county councillor in Northumberland, I know Jeff Gobin quite well enough to assume his honesty and old Labour values do not sit well in this era of Nu Labour's openness, transparency and freedom of information. Unfortunately, what they brought in was not for them because there seems a lack of openness, transparency and freedom of information.

Jeff would know that a decision to close a care home would have been made, but the Labour Party would want a charade of going through "consultation".

Poor Jeff, suspended for 28 days. I know that Jeff would never cross the floor to join the Tories, but does he really want to go back to them when his time is served?

RICHARD DODD, Belsay, Northumberland

Disgraceful antics bring game into disrepute

IT'S a pity that the Oscars ceremony has passed as I'd have liked to nominate Del Horno and Wright-Philips of Chelsea for best actor and best supporting actor respectively, after their display during Wednesday night's match with the Toon. Alternatively, they could make a late entry into the Commonwealth Games in the synchronised diving competition.

This is not simply sour grapes. The Toon never looked like scoring and Chelsea deserved to win, but these disgraceful antics bring the whole game into disrepute, cheapen the efforts of honest players, and must be stamped out.

BRIAN M ARCHER, Killingworth, North Tyneside

It appears no-one asked about funding

LAST year in the run-up to the General Election, when various Government ministers were being ferried around the country by helicopter or on luxury coaches with their entourages, attending professionally organised rallies, knowing that their party was already millions of pounds in debt, it appears that none of them considered asking the Prime Minister how it was all being funded.

I wonder if they all attended the same course in financial management as Tessa Jowell?

Malcolm Wild, North Shields, Tyne & Wear

Clothes wanted to help cancer research

IWRITE to urge readers to join me in a bid to raise pounds 2m for Cancer Research UK by clearing out their wardrobes and spring-cleaning their homes as part of the exciting GiveGet campaign. GiveGet is a unique collaboration between "brands for less" retailer TK Maxx and Britain's leading cancer charity Cancer Research UK.

All you have to do is bag up clothes or household items you no longer use and take them down to your local TK Maxx store before April 2, knowing you're doing your bit to fund vital research into cancer, a disease which will affect one in three people in the UK at some stage in their lives. All donations for GiveGet will be turned into valuable stock for Cancer Research UK shops.

Ensuring a constant supply of good quality stock is an ongoing challenge for Cancer Research UK's shops. Yet a nationwide poll suggests that 58% of the population has five or more items in their wardrobe that they haven't worn in the last two years. If every adult donated just one item, this stock could be worth over pounds 120m to Cancer Research UK's 630 stores.

I'm hoping people across the North-East will join me in having a clear out and help to make GiveGet 2006 the biggest charity collection ever.

RACHEL HUNTER, Cancer Research UK, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London

Reunion for former Ingham Infirmary staff

THE 13th reunion for people who used to work at the Ingham Infirmary in South Shields will be held at the Hedworth Hall in Dean Road, South Shields, on Saturday May 20 from 11am until 4pm. There's a sherry reception from 11am, with lunch at noon, and tea and biscuits at 3.15pm. Tickets cost pounds 15.

The reunion has been held every two years since 1982 and continues to have a great response. It's a great day to remember and share time with past friends and colleagues. We continue to see new faces every year, so we would urge former Ingham staffers to support this great day.

If you want to attend, please contact Sheila Pearson (0191) 455-9479; Nancy Clark (0191) 536-9243; Celia Gibson (0191) 536-6750 or Lesley Douglas (0191) 237-0357.

Mrs CELIA GIBSON, South Shields, South Tyneside

A distortion of facts and history over Serbs

WITH the death and burial of Slobodan Milosevic, anti-Serb propaganda reached a peak. However, Serbs were the defenders of the internationally recognised state of Yugoslavia against foreign powers ( principally Germany and the USA ( who financed insurrection by Bosnian Muslims, Croatian nationalists and the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army.

It was the Croat government, under President Tudjman, which got its Second World War ally, Germany, to illegally recognise its statehood. Tudjman then wrote a constitution which described the Serbs as an "alien minority".

It was the impeccable Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, who pointed out that "the first refugees in the Yugoslav conflict were the 40,000 Serbs who fled Croatia". They were followed by some 300,000 Serbs driven out of their historic homelands in the Krajina, as Nato forces looked on. In all, one million Serbs were ethnically cleansed from other parts of Yugoslavia.

Milosevic was no saint, but he was no worse than the religious bigot, President Izetbegovic of Bosnia, who said "there can be no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic institutions" and with the help of foreign Islamic terrorists, waged a ruthless war against both Serb and Croat.

So the European Union (under German direction), the USA and the UN have managed to destroy the most ethnically mixed people in the Balkans (the Serbs) and bring about the most ethnically and religiously pure statelets of Croatia and Bosnia.

Now, having allowed the Kosovo Muslims to drive out most of the Christian Serbs from Kosovo, the UN seems bent on removing Kosovo from Serbia. This, in religious and cultural terms, would be like removing Kent from England.

The propaganda against Milosevic and the Serbs in general, uncritically passed on by the British press, is undoubtedly the most disgraceful distortion of facts and history I have ever come across.

RODNEY E B ATKINSON, Stocksfield, Northumberland

Taxpayers should not fund political parties

THIS country underwent a bloody revolution to wrest power from the privileged classes and pass it on to the commoners. Now, it seems, wealth may be able to buy an individual a place in the House of Lords where they can influence the legislators.

Just when does a loan become a donation? I suggest when it cannot be repaid. I agree with those who suggest personal donations to political parties should be capped. Donations from companies and other organisations should be permitted only by a positive vote of the shareholders.

I do not agree with the proposition that political parties should be funded by the taxpayers. Taxpayers in this country already carry a heavy burden. It also raises the question of which parties would get help: Conservative, Liberal, National Front, Respect? And who would divide and share the money out?

Funding political parties from general taxation may also affect our democracy by perpetuating parties who are out of touch with the electorate, able to pass laws and policies without consensus.

Parties financed by personal contributions and money raised from members ensures that policies adopted will curry favour with the electorate. If they do not, then membership and donations will drop, and a party so out of touch with the electorate will eventually wither on the vine and out of existence.

TOM MOUNTAIN, South Shields, South Tyneside
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 25, 2006
Words:1573
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