Helping Ukrainians

A FRIEND and I recently returned from a humanitarian mission to the Ukrainian border, where we were moved by both the scale of the crisis afflicting so many innocent people, and by the amount of support they were receiving from volunteers – including those assisting refugees in navigating UK visa applications.

In registering their interest with the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the British people have demonstrated their eagerness to help but to date, so few have been able to navigate the process and help those who really need it.

That’s why I’ve written to the Home Office’s immigration minister, calling on him to harness this ‘people power’ to clear the red tape.

In the same way that the British people rose to the challenge of supporting our NHS during the pandemic and vaccination programme, they are ready and willing to step up now, both by welcoming Ukrainians and facilitating their speedy arrival.

John McCullagh, Great Smeaton, Northallerton.

Good idea

THE letter from John Prest advocating using the empty Grammar School in Northallerton as a centre for Ukrainian refugees is, without doubt, a breath of fresh air and highlights a potential practical solution to a deeply distressing situation “Grammar school” (D&S Times letters, Mar 25).

Even if the buildings were used as a form of “transit camp”, before settlement elsewhere, it would be practical help to get these poor, desperate people away from the carnage.

How many village halls and council-owned properties could be opened up in this way?

It is to be hoped that other local councillors take note of their fellow councillor (and former mayor) Mr Prest’s comments and act accordingly.

RT & MJ Semain, West Rounton.

Energy alternatives

A J GOBBI makes a number of points including rewilding, banning oil boilers and wind turbines, “Wind turbines” (D&S letters, Apr 1).

Regarding oil boilers, we would like to point out that it is all new oil and gas boilers that Government wish to ban from 2025.

We are in complete agreement with A J Gobbi that the Government needs to have suitable alternatives in place by that time.

Like A J Gobbi, we are not confident that these alternatives will be ready. That said, oil and gas boilers are major contributors to the UK’s carbon emissions and it is essential that these are phased out.

As we can all see fossil fuel prices are highly volatile. The global economy and our lives are being massively impacted by the already high fossil fuel prices that are now further impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The consequences to those who are already having to make hard choices between heating and eating are incalculable.

The quickest way of reducing, certainly electricity prices, is through onshore wind turbines. Other alternatives include nuclear – expensive to build and have a very long timeline.

The Government is contemplating local small-scale nuclear power plants. How many of us want one of those next door and we still haven’t finally resolved the problem of radioactive waste.

Another option much discussed is fracking, arguably as unpopular, if not more, as on-shore wind turbines.

Local renewable energy generation will make the country less susceptible to international pressures and reduce energy price volatility. However, there are no easy choices and none that come without costs.

A J Gobbi makes a valid point about the risk to birds and bats from onshore wind turbines. However, these can and must be mitigated by siting wind turbines appropriately.

Furthermore, the harm to the natural environment caused by climate change vastly exceeds any damage from wind turbines.

As the RSPB states: "Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife, and the RSPB recognises the essential role of renewable energy in addressing this problem." The RSPB supports wind turbines and advise extensively on how wind turbines can be sited to have minimal impact on nature.

The Conservatives' commitment to net zero by 2050 was clear in their 2019 manifesto. We hope that this is not one of the promises that is tossed aside.

Bridget Holmstrom, On behalf of Climate Action Stokesley and Villages.

Solar sense

IT is estimated that the world supply of wheat will be 30 million tonnes down this year due to the war between Russia and Ukraine.

So it is unbelievable that EDF renewables intend to develop 50 hectares of land east of Yearby for solar panels (D&S Times, April 1).

I worked this land in the 70s and we got three tonnes of wheat to the acre, with also substantial crops of barley and potatoes.

There must surely be plenty of brownfield sites at Teesmouth or failing that the proposed large battery factory roof and various warehouse roofs covering a large acreage that could be used.

Only reclaimed spoil heaps, filled in tips, land unsuitable for housing or farming should be used to solar panels. You know it makes sense.

W Calvert, (retired agronomist), Northallerton.


THE impoverishment of many of your readers due to the rising cost of electricity is lamentable, as is the Government's ideas for bringing relief.

The idea that new nuclear power stations will solve our energy crisis is misplaced. It will take many years for them to deliver electricity to the grid. The record is poor.

Moreover, a safe way of disposing of spent nuclear fuel has yet to be found, and the predicted rise of sea level poses an extra hazards to Hinkley Point and Sizewell on low-lying coasts.

Extra wind and solar power could be brought on stream far sooner. Even more could be achieved and sooner through a scheme to improve home insulation and so to keep people warmer while reducing consumption. This would also provide local employment.

Sadly our local governments do not have the resources for this as they struggle to provide social care, education and other essential services.

As a Green Party candidate for Scotton and Lower Wensleydale, I am concerned that North Yorkshire and other authorities should have financial backing for achieving from central government for a roll out of improved home insulation. This would be the quickest way of overcoming fuel poverty.

Lisle Ryder, Newton-le-Willows, Bedale.

Spring Statement

DESPITE pervasive self-publicity and a smooth political veneer, the recent Spring Statement has clearly exposed Rishi Sunak's economic naivety.

It has also revealed a deep cynicism in a man who holds one of the UK's most senior public offices.

Mr Sunak has chosen deliberately to prioritise future pre-election tax cuts over informed, active and authentic engagement with the pressing problems of today.

This ideological miscalculation (tinged with a dash of what appears to be personal ambition) ill serves the country at this time and will prove disastrous for the vast majority in the short term.

Significantly, Mr Sunak has chosen to ignore the advice of impartial bodies such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Resolution Foundation and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research for his own smoke and mirrors view of a national economic strategy.

These experts can't all be wrong; and even his own leader admits "we must do better".

Given the inadequacy of what's been presented to the stark reality of the demands that are required, one can only conclude that Mr Sunak (like his leader) is not up to the tasks he's responsible for.

Readers may wish to bear this in mind in relation to the up-coming local elections.

R C Pennington, Stokesley.

Russian sanctions

REGARDING the announcement that Infosys, the Chancellor's wife's company is closing its front office in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin's regime will begin to crumble from inside Russia when and if sanctions begin to have effect, and cause Russians to be dissatisfied with their ordinary everyday lives.

Sanctions will have their greatest effect when France and Italy stop exporting their luxury goods to Russian oligarchs.

Sanctions will begin to work when and if businesses like Fortnum and Mason, Harrods and Loakes close their accounts with Russian oligarchs.

Will Infosys systems still be available for Russians to buy through Russian retailers?

Will Infosys support services still be available in Russia, through Infosys or any new subsidiary Infosys company?

If the answer to either of these questions is "yes", in what sense, has the Chancellor's wife's company Infosys stopped trading in Russia?

Cllr Nigel Boddy (Lib Dem), North Road Ward, Darlington.

World order

THE sympathy for Ukraine has been accompanied by a worldwide condemnation of Russia.

This exaggerated compassion is not consistent with human nature – witness the worldwide tolerance of misery and hunger in poorer populations.

We do not like to accept the weakness of our own character, so willingly accept the prompting of our leaders, propaganda and censorship to display moral outrage.

We fear the new world order, guaranteeing peace, prosperity, freedom and security, is being broken by a party that does not like it.

That it is being broken down is a sign that it has failed – however it failed from the start but we did not notice it. It is only when it is coming close to home that we do.

A new world order that really could exist is one that gives peace, prosperity, freedom and security to everybody on earth.

Giving arms to Ukraine is stupid. It will do two things. It will kill and it will relieve our guilt.

Like this new world order, nuclear deterrence is due to fail.

Nuclear deterrence is an unproven myth that has operated for a very short time, although some would say an amazingly long time.

Assuming nuclear deterrence is going to continue to work, the world’s greatest threat is climate change which can only be combated by global cooperation. The polarising of world opinion is not going in the right direction.

Chris Pattison, Richmond.

Road state

IS there a road or street in Darlington that does not have pot holes, defects and dips which shake vehicles and their occupants to kingdom come? They are all sub-standard.

The frosts and harshness of winter are past us, touch wood, as well as the period when accountants in the town hall say there's nothing left in the budget to spend on road repairs. We are in a new financial year now.

The reason for stating Covid prevents us from resurfacing our roads is largely gone and our street maintenance crews are no longer diverted by salt-spreading activities.

So I look forward to a comprehensive programme of resurfacing roads, levelling manholes, drains and ironworks and a smoother life ahead for road-users including cyclists. Or is my faith misplaced?

Malcolm Dunstone, Darlington.

Taxing the rich

IN the current financial crisis, income tax is hardly mentioned.

Can I remind readers that when Mrs Thatcher first took office in 1979, the highest rate of income tax was 83 per cent for the very highest earners.

Is there not a case that in these troubled times those with the highest incomes should make an increased contribution, whilst those with offshore tax avoidance schemes should make a contribution?

Similarly, those whose income is earned mainly through investments should pay more than 20 per cent of their profits.

Those at the bottom are already in dire circumstances with energy and food prices rising rapidly cannot afford to pay more, so what else can be done?

Eric Gendle, Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough.

Pretty park

SOUTH PARK in Darlington looks wonderful these days. The flower beds this year are just stunning.

Well done to everyone in the park who works to make it such haven. They deserve our thanks.

Alexandra Bailey, Darlington.