From: Brian Berry, Chief Executive, Federation of Master Builders.
I’M really encouraged with the visionary approach taken by Parliament’s Communities Committee – headed by Sheffield MP Clive Betts – as it looks at how we need to fundamentally reimagine the ways that we regenerate our high streets in order to adapt to the challenges of modern life (The Yorkshire Post, February 21).
Central to breathing new life into our high street is converting empty or underused spaces above shops into new homes. These kind of homes would be ideal for young families and professionals, and would benefit the high street through increased footfall to the ‘activity-based community gathering places’ which the report wants us to aspire to.
The FMB report Homes on our high streets sets out a number of creative ways that we can overcome the challenges laid out by the Select Committee and which are associated with regeneration projects, including disparate ownership and preserving local characteristics.
In this regard, I was particularly pleased with the Committee’s conclusion that the Government must review the planning powers currently available to local authorities, with a view to strengthening them and empowering local authorities to deliver on town centre transformation and, at the same time, the Government’s ambitious housing targets.
With a survey of cross-party MPs showing that 90 per cent of respondents recognise the potential of our existing buildings to help solve the housing crisis, I would urge the Government to accept the recommendation to conduct a review of our high streets as quickly as possible.
In particular, the Government must deliver on its commitment to review the Compulsory Purchase Order process, which could help speed up regeneration of high streets.
However, contrary to the Committee’s conclusion that Permitted Development Rights risk undermining a local authority’s ability to plan for their housing delivery, streamlining the process for upwards development above certain premises would help them meet their targets while maintaining a more rigorous application process for other kinds of developments.
What we must avoid is perfectly good space lying empty and achieving nothing in terms of boosting the local economy or providing homes for individuals and families.
Be firm on fracking rules
From: Dr Peter Williams, Malton.
I SEE that Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder of the fracking company Ineos, has called for safeguards on earth tremors caused by fracking to be relaxed.
This must concern Ryedale’s MP Kevin Hollinrake, who has repeatedly said he would only support fracking if monitored by ‘gold standard’ regulation.
I hope his constituents can look forward to public reassurances from Mr Hollinrake, on his website and in local newpapers, that he is actively opposed to any weakening of safeguards for our environment.
Anyone who still believes that fracking would bring financial benefits to local communities should reflect on how Sir Jim – now resident in Monaco – became the UK’s richest person.
Risky young at the wheel
From: Andy Rhodes, Preston Parade, Beeston, Leeds.
CORRESPONDENT Adam Bricklebank writes that young drivers are only 1.5 per cent of the country’s drivers and complains about insurance companies charging them “12 times more than the average driver”.
He says there were 146,000 personal injury collisions in 2012 (seven years ago, so hardly relevant to today).
If 1.5 per cent of them involved young drivers, that would be about 2,200 but his own figures give the number as 30,750 – over 14 times the rate for his “average driver”.
Wrong Bunny in the picture
From: Brian H Sheridan, Lodge Moor, Sheffield.
I AM bound to draw attention to an error in Picture Past (The Yorkshire Post, February 19). Picture five on page 12 indeed shows Bunny Austin but it is not Henry Wilfred (Bunny) Austin (1906-2000) who reached Wimbledon finals in 1932 and 1938.
Your picture shows Bernard J Austin, also nicknamed “Bunny”, who was a well known tennis tournament referee in the North of England.
He is shown in the referee’s office preparing an umpires’ scoresheet, probably at Scarborough, where the Yorkshire Championships were held until 1969.
Best of times, worst of times
From: Mr PL Taylor, Milner Street, Huddersfield.
WAR brings out the worst in humanity, but it also brings out the best in humanity.
I am quite sure if the late Sir Winston Churchill were still alive he would totally agree with his concept.
Sometime the physically strong show cowardice and weakness, but also the physically weak show enormous strength of character which manifests itself in self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.
Where is Grayling?
From: Thomas Reed, Harrogate.
NOT much sign of Chris Grayling of late. Is he working on another fantasy ferry deal for Brexit – or has the Government finally concluded that every media appearance by the Transport Secretary is a liability that makes Jeremy Corbyn look credible by comparison?