Letters and emails on March 30, 2012

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The Lancashire Evening Post’s letters’ pages online

I agree with everything that was written in your recent “Ghost Town” article. I have been trying to set up a business within Preston city centre. The rent, and especially the business rates being asked, is ridiculous. One property on Friargate costs £24,000 in business rates. That property has been empty for coming up to eight months now. Another one, which has been vacant for over two years, has a business rate of £32,000. I have lived in Preston all my life, and the likelihood is the business I want to start will have to be set up in another town or city. Preston Council is not helping me. They should help to bring about lower business rates and rents to encourage people to take the risk. I feel like the authorities just want to get as much money as possible. If I go around Preston, the city is dying. Jobs are not available and you can’t start your own business. Most people will just think what’s the point? Arjun Naik, via email

Now give us the land to build on

It’s good that the Government appears to have stuck to its guns and carried out its intended reforms to the planning system, which are badly needed if we are to meet our housing needs. Over the next five years the gap between demand for housing and the increase in supply is going to grow by more than half a million. It will be the young in our society who are going to suffer unless we can build new homes for them to live in. The National Planning Policy Framework is a step in the right direction. But in order to build more homes local planning authorities must allocate sufficient financially viable land for the construction of new homes. Local authorities, local communities and interest groups need to take a more responsible approach to planning, and to permit the introduction of a system that provides sufficient land to satisfy the needs of our growing population. Brian Berry, Chief Executive, Federation of Master Builders

Seatbelts would have saved us

As one of three passengers thrown from their seats onto the floor of a Longridge-bound Stagecoach bus after the driver did what I think was an emergency stop in Church Street, Preston, I was very sad to read of the death of passenger Mrs Dorothy Sumner of Ribbleton. I would like to offer my condolences to her family and friends. Mrs Sumner was lying near the bus door as I tried to get up from the floor near the luggage rack, having been thrown a few yards, landing on my back and facing the opposite direction from which I had been sitting. A male passenger was thrown on to the floor behind me, although he was getting up by the time I realised what had happened and was trying to stand. Throughout the time we waited for an ambulance, Mrs Sumner appeared very calm and was dignified and quiet. Your report of the accident, which happened on March 7, suggested that the gentleman and I were merely suffering from shock. In fact I had injured my back and am having treatment for it, and also for another problem which did not manifest itself immediately. I also had bruising and stiffness and the gentleman who fell told me as he left accident and emergency at Royal Preston Hospital, that he had soft tissue injuries. Before I knew of Mrs Sumner’s sad death, I told friends we were extremely lucky nothing worse happened. I argued then – and do so even more powerfully now in the light of what has happened – that had there been seatbelts on the bus it is unlikely any of the three of us would have been thrown to the floor, although there may have been some whiplash injuries. Coaches have to provide seatbelts, as do private cars. Why are they not compulsory for public buses? Some may argue that it would cut company profits, increase fares or both. My reply to that is that seatbelts would surely save lives and unnecessary injuries and must be the priority. I would also like to praise a fire and rescue officer, who was a passenger in the car which was also involved, for his superb work assessing our injuries, taking our details and reassuring us. His name was Peter and he disregarded his own injury to help us all. Sue Hicks, Lea, by email

First class pledge on the cards

Following the news that Royal Mail will be able to fix their own price for stamps, and the inevitable increase in postal costs, I’ll never buy another first-class stamp from Royal Mail again. I will buy the odd second-class stamp but only if the person or company I’m writing to doesn’t have email. In my opinion the postal service has gone downhill fast. I wouldn’t mind if customer service and punctuality were being drastically improved to compensate. Darryl Ashton, via email

Cleaning up politics for 50p

Following the cash-for-access scandal the political parties need to have a grown-up debate on the future of funding – a discussion that must include the public funding option. In November the Committee on Standards on Public Life proposed a modest “50p per voter” model for supporting UK parties, a fraction of what European parties currently receive in state aid. We desperately need a level playing field on party funding. But as long as politicians shy away from even putting public funding into the mix there is little chance of it being achieved. These latest allegations can’t be swept under the carpet but that’s precisely what the parties are doing with the state funding debate. Fifty pence seems a small price to pay to clean up politics, and no more than the extra cash the Government now expects us to stump-up for a hot Cornish pasty. Any solution to the funding crisis needs to end the practice of pouring millions into a handful of marginal seats. Local spending limits would remind parties of their vital public function – and that’s good news for local voters, local parties and the health of our democracy. Chasing the big money out of politics means difficult choices. Katie Ghose, chief executive, Electoral Reform Society

Lowry’s Lytham is up for sale

Your readers may be interested to hear that a stunning painting by L.S Lowry, entitled Yachts at Lytham St Annes, is one of the highlights of the 20th Century British and Irish Art sale taking place at Bonhams in New Bond Street, London, on May 30. Painted in 1951, Lowry has depicted a peaceful scene of yachts bobbing on the water. It is certainly a far cry from the industrial, urban landscapes and crowded scenes that he is famous for. Yachts at Lytham St Annes conveys calm and tranquillity from the shore of the traditional seaside town. The painting is estimated to sell for £80,000–£120,000. Alex Heffler, Bonhams, via email