No More Sites for Store Eyes

The Birmingham Post (England), September 30, 1998 | Go to article overview

No More Sites for Store Eyes


Sir, - The Government seems to be suffering an acute case of schizophrenia over out-oown shopping. Richard Caborn, Minister for Regions, Regeneration and Planning pledges (Post, Sept 26) to get tough on out-oown centres in defence of ravaged and historic market towns.

And yet when the Government had the opportunity to do something to redress the imbalance between traditional town centres and existing out-oentre stores in the Transport White Paper they backed down.

John Prescott, Minister for Transport and the Regions included in his draft White Paper plans to introduce across the board car parking charges, which would have removed one of the key advantages of out-oown shopping.

Mr Blair is understood to have vetoed these plans after heavy lobbying from the big supermarket chains. They were axed from the final document.

I raised this precise point with Lord Whitty, Transport Minister, at a regional transport conference.

He said publicly that, while out-oown shopping could be bad in some circumstances, in others it helped relieve congestion, something Mr Caborn's report pretty much squashes. I am awaiting clarification from Lord Whitty's office as to exactly what he mean t.

The logic is overwhelming: out-oown shopping is bad for town centres, bad for jobs, bad for congestion and bad for the environment.

But action to curb out-oown centres seems to depend more on the internal dynamics of a government keen to please its new supporters, than on logic.

After all, it is well known that Sainsbury's are among Labour's backers. And shortly after the White Paper Tesco made a large donation to the Millennium Dome.

The mistake of Mrs Thatcher's Conservative Government was to allow large numbers of out-oown shopping centres to be built in the name of competition only to find they destroyed competition.

Unless Labour reins in the supermarket and hyperstore giants the effect of the Conservatives' mistakes will only get worse.

GERALD KELLS

Friends of the Earth,

West Midlands Transport

Campaign.

Who trains

the trainers?

Sir, - The government has made two nonsensical statements abut the use of computers in the last week.

The first was made by the Education Minister who announced that all teachers would be trained in Information Technology (the current buzz words).

Where are the people to come from who will train the teachers?

The second was made today by the Health Minister who said that the NHS would have all their records on computers. Does he realise how much that will cost?

Due to the appalling writing of most doctors, scanners cannot be relied upon and that means all records will have to be put in by hand. At, say, one patient per day (including checking time), 1,000 operators will process 1,000,000 records in three years.

To process all the records of the 50,000,000 inhabitants of this country will take 50,000 operators three years. That excludes updating the records.

And where are all these computer operators to come from? Who will train them and where will they be housed?

Government targets cannot be achieved by soundbite! Targets are valueless unless they are realistic.

The Blairites should get their heads out of the clouds and get down to some real work. Perhaps the unreal world of Westminster and Whitehall inhibits them; so if they handed back control to local government, something could be accomplished.

J L MULLINS

Redditch,

Worcestershire.

Three cheers for

a cup of coffee

Sir, - To say that research shows coffee can cause ulcers and increase the risk of heart attacks in adults and cot death in babies, in an article promoting the health benefits of tea is really not on (Post, Sept 23). Research shows nothing of the kind.

Coffee, like tea, contains beneficial ingredients such as antioxidants and potassium, (and when drunk with milk, which it normally is, all the benefits of calcium, folic acid and vitamin B2 as listed for tea with milk). …

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