News in brief - Thursday September 04, 2014

A hen harrier in flight but one reader questions whether enough is being done to conserve them
A hen harrier in flight but one reader questions whether enough is being done to conserve them
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Rare bird needs helping

I refer to the letter from Amanda Anderson (letters August 25), and her response to ideas floated by the naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, regarding the demise of the Forest of Bowland’s hen harriers.

I fear it is Ms Anderson who has “lost her way”. Although she claims to be the director of the Moorland Association, not once in her reply did she seek to address the plight of this unique bird of prey, merely that codes of practice already in place are good news for several endangered species in the Bowland area - game bird species that offer no threat to the much-valued red grouse. Ms Anderson mentions “predator control” but offers no idea of what a predator constitutes; clearly, anything which runs, crawls or flies, is a threat to the grouse and ipso facto financial return - sorry, “livelihoods”.

Having trekked the Langden Valley in the heart of Bowland, back in spring, I was surprised and, ultimately concerned that everybody I met asked, without fail, if I had seen any raptors - birds of prey.

Sad to relate, not a one during the course of a three hour, five mile walk. Neither harrier, peregrine, merlin or short-eared owl, these species much vaunted by the leaflet “Treading Carefully” and issued on behalf of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Needless to say, red grouse and pheasant abounded, from which evidence an obvious conclusion is reached - the deliberate eradication of anything that could adversely affect game bird numbers. Interestingly this definition includes lapwing, curlew and golden plover, Ms Anderson mentions briefly in her letter.

A little over 20 years ago, scientific evidence gave high hopes that the re-colonisation of northern moorland by the hen harrier would have little or no effect on a healthy red grouse population. You could be forgiven for assuming that, rather like bear baiting and fox hunting, grouse shooting as a sport would be somewhat frowned upon in the 21st century. Apparently not. Which begs the question of how to police this bloodsport? The suggested subsidy for landowners with resident raptors on their property would come from the costs levied on a shooting party. Likewise, any person, be they poacher or gamekeeper, found guilty of killing birds of prey would face a jail term or at least, lose their firearm licence, permanently.

Regardless of lip-service by the director of the Moorland Association, loss of the iconic “Sky Dancer” is a crime for which the shooting fraternity must bear full responsibility. Chris Packham at least provokes a debate on this subject. Amanda Anderson denies there is any problem. I know who I prefer to believe.

Martin Sutcliffe, Grimsargh

Great holiday home for hens

What a brilliant idea to set up a hotel for chickens (LEP August 23). We have 12 bantam chickens and it’s a challenge to find someone to look after them if we are away. Our neighbours do a great job usually but the summer holidays can prove tricky when most are away themselves. We will certainly be booking our chickens in the next time we are away. A great idea and it’s a pleasure to support an enterprising local young man. We wish him well.

James and Deborah Collier, address supplied

Star is a polite ambassador

I am aged 53. Over the past 25 years I doubt any Prestonians my age have seen more of Lancashire County Cricket club than myself. In other words I probably saw more of Andrew Flintoff’s county career than any other ordinary Prestonian of my age. Throughout his Lancashire career, Andrew was the most polite, endearing ambassador for the great city of Preston than anyone could imagine.

Revd Graham Nelson, Preston

Bus station is worth saving

It would greatly simplify manoeuvres at the bus station if the bays were slanted at 45 degrees, rather than square-on as at present.

There would be far less wear and tear on tyres, steering and on the surface itself.

The bus doors would automatically sit over the kerb, safely away from the large support pillars and reversing out would be easier, not to mention improved visibility.

Greater safety is always a bonus. Most of the drivers are helpful, friendly (or at least polite) and do their job well for which one is grateful.

The building itself would obviously benefit from various improvements, as already suggested in the battle to save it, so a few injections of resourcefulness could go a long way towards creating a better overall image. Surely worth doing.

G W Richards, Bamber Bridge

Pension change is a better deal

In response to a letter in last “Pensioners hit by reforms” (letter August 29) I would like to correct the scaremongering by Mr Barton over the Conservative reforms to pensions.

Conservatives believe that if you have worked hard and saved for your pension pot you should be free to decide what do with the money. So we are ending the system which forced people with defined contribution pensions to buy annuities and scrapping the punitive 55 per cent tax rate which restricted how much you could take out.

Mr Barton also says that there have been “stealth cuts” to the uprating of the state pension. In fact, it is this Conservative-led government that has brought in the pension triple-lock, so that the state pension will rise by the higher of either inflation, average earnings or an absolute minimum of 2.5 per cent.

This means that pensioners have seen the highest ever rise in the weekly state pension - putting an end to Labour’s 75p pension rise. The Conservatives have also introduced workplace auto-enrolment into a pension scheme, ensuring all workers have an income in retirement.

We are also introducing the single-tier pension of £144 per week - benefitting thousands of women across South Ribble

Seema Kennedy Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, South Ribble