Alan Castle - Victory for tree people

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NOW that you, the people, have won victory over Government plans to take away the forests run by the Forestry Commission, there are other battles to be won out there.

It was only when the powers that be realised that the majority of the nation cared and money that would be raised would be minimal in a sell-off that opinion began to waver.

I think the truth really hit home when they realised that the petitioners, demonstrators and those writing to MPs of all persuasions were not tree-huggers but their constituents who used the forests for leisure and pleasure and that opinion on the airwaves and in the press grew and grew. Only then did they back down.

But just days and hours beforehand, they were still arguing that nothing had been decided and that consultation would go ahead no matter what and that provision would be made for access.

The trouble was the population just did not believe them.

I wonder at what point Caroline Spellman, the Minister in charge of the idea, realised she was on a loser or did she get the message from No. 10 to scrap it before they lost even more public support and credibility?

We are constantly being told that this is a listening, caring coalition.

They only realise such mistakes when the public is prepared to get up and do something about it, as in this case. Well done everybody who took action, it was well worth it.

Our National Parks are the latest under threat from Government intervention in the form of cuts, with £1million taken from their budget.

Northumberland has a wonderful National Park, with its isolated, windswept moors, its hidden valleys and hills, as well as some national treasures and ancient historical sites. We have already been told that two tourist information centres run by the park authority have to close.

They are in the Ingram Valley and at Rothbury, both, I would have thought, essential to promote the countryside and the environment.

Now the National Park Authority is seeking legal advice before asking for a judicial review because it believes it is already underfunded compared with other parks and, as a result, the £1million cut by Defra is unfair.

If you do not have such places fully-funded, people will not come and will not find out about the attractions. As I said before, this would be another blow to tourism, which provides many sources of income.

THAT brings me onto another matter. Have you visited a major store in Newcastle or any large city of late and found that they open their doors and the staff either do not exist or they disappear as you head towards them?

Pick up a pair of trousers and seek advice and there is no one to give it. Head for a changing room and the person in charge is usually most helpful, if overstretched and is even willing to go and get another size if you find, surprisingly, that this winter’s excesses have added a size to the waist.

You thank them and head for the tills where there are two people manning them and subsequently large queues. You get near the front and find the person being served wants to talk and talk. You can tell the assistant wants to get on but is too polite to tell the customer to move on.

It is the same in the supermarket when you cannot find something.

You start to wander the aisles in an effort to find an assistant and the place is like the Marie Celeste. The uniformed crew have gone. Eventually, you find an assistant and he or she is very helpful but I am sure many people just give up.

We are told thousands are jobless. These firms increase their profits each year by millions. May I suggest that they spend one or two of those millions employing a few extra staff throughout the country. Just think what a difference it would make to hundreds, if not thousands, of those seeking employment.