COUNTY PLANNING: ON February 9, 2005, several local authority leaders signed a letter to HAS stating that the North East Regional Assembly's Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) - a planning blueprint - was not beneficial to County Durham's economic prosperity.

Durham County Council has again displayed the same hostility towards the RSS and suggested residents and businesses can add their opposition by writing to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly (Echo, Sept 30).

I agree with the Labour councillors on this matter. The idea of the science park, Netpark, at Sedgefield, has real potential for the area. Of course, the regional assembly will suggest the option of placing research and development on Tyneside, for this fits nicely with the other EU-driven plan for city regions, sub-regions and regions.

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County Council leader Albert Nugent can't on the one hand wish for city regions to develop, so long as it does not affect County Durham, and then suggest the RSS might blight the county. City regions and regions are not compatible with historical County Durham.

Coun Nugent should cease the funding of the regional assembly, and encourage other Durham authorities to do likewise. - Jim Tague, Bishop Auckland Conservatives.

BLEAK FUTURE

IN his grievance with the local district council, David Quinn, of Howden-le-Wear (HAS, Sept 25), makes a fair assessment of what is happening, but unfortunately it is too little too late.

What is happening in Howden is happening in Crook and other local areas and must question the integrity of Wear Valley District Council, Durham County Council and, in particular, the Government.

We are seeing a massive building programme in the area that has priced young, first-time buyers out of the market, and a massive decline in council housing that will leave many people facing a future of having nowhere to live.

Wear Valley, one of the most deprived regions in the country, has a bleak future under a Government hellbent on destroying our way of life.

Whether you like it or not, democracy is a joke in this country and it is time people stood up and were counted. The whole political system needs change and politicians who are prepared to give this country back to its people.

At the moment we are being sold off to the highest bidder. - John Young, Crook, Co Durham.

MIDDLE EAST

DAVID Lacey states that Ismail Haniya, the Hamas Prime Minister of Palestine, and Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah refuse to recognise the state of Israel (HAS, Sept 27).

I suggest that if Israel vacated the occupied Palestinian land there would at least be some hope of reaching a settlement in the Middle East.

The truth is that Israel has actually colonised these stolen territories and has no intention of giving them up. Indeed, the internal strife inside Israel if it tried to placate the Palestinians would destabilise the country.

I also believe that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, despite his awful reputation, saw that sooner or later Israel would have to return land to the Palestinians and he started with the Gaza Strip and intended to follow up with the West Bank. Unfortunately, his illness put an end to all that.

Israel rightly insists on its own sovereign borders, but refuses to allow the formation of a state of Palestine and until it does the mayhem will continue and more innocent lives will be lost, including many Israelis. - Hugh Pender, Darlington.

HUNTING

I WISH to support your correspondent (HAS, Sept 28) on the question of deer (or foxes) being injured and crossing onto National Trust land and being hunted there. I urge all members of the Trust to object to this practice in the forthcoming vote on the issue.

Also, in the same issue of The Northern Echo there was quite a lot about dangerous dogs. Something does need to be done, but what about dangerous men and boys with knives, airguns and crossbows?

A crossbow was recently seized by police in Middlesbrough during a search for drugs. It is high time all these weapons were made illegal and not for sale to anyone. There are no legitimate uses for them. - RI Brown, Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham.

CHILDMINDERS

I WAS stunned at the suggestion of David Cameron that childminders should no longer need to be registered. He said parents should be able to choose whatever child care they want and that we should trust people.

Is he really advocating that just anyone can do the job - without the necessary skills, safe environment and a thorough check into their background to make sure they are suitable to look after children? What happens then if a child is neglected, abused or even killed - will he personally accept the responsibility?

Registered childminders are registered for a reason - to help ensure that our children are safe and well looked after.

"Every Child Matters" is the headline of Labour's childcare policy. I just wonder if those three words mean anything to the Tory leader. - Councillor Alex Cunningham, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Stockton Borough Council.

MUSLIMS

PETE Winstanley claims that Muslim representatives and commentators regularly condemn violence and terrorism (HAS, Oct 2).

He adds that their words are displaced in the headlines by the rantings of fanatics. This may well be true, but it then begs the question: Who is winning?

Is it the Muslim leadership, or the fanatics? Whereas Islam was once viewed in the West as a deeply religious faith, it is now associated with terror. The Muslim hierarchy obviously needs to speak louder if this view is to be altered.

Mr Winstanley also makes reference to "Christian bigotry". Bigotry by definition is an obstinate opinion with intolerance to those who disagree. Christianity recognises the rights of other religions and the UK is a prime example. Islam's refusal to recognise Israel's existence suggests the contrary. - Kev McStravick, Darlington.

KEV McStravick (HAS, Oct 2) may recall that, in March 2004, the Muslim Council of Britain, which represents more than 400 Islamic organisations, mosques, charities and schools, wrote to every mosque in Britain urging Muslims to "observe the utmost vigilance against any mischievous or criminal elements from infiltrating the community and provoking any unlawful activity", to "liaise with the local police and give them the fullest cooperation in dealing with any criminal activity including terrorist threat", and "to develop active contacts with other faith communities and civic organisations in order to help maintain social peace and good community relations".

Britain's Muslims do not need patronising lectures from Home Secretary John Reid. - Pete Winstanley, Durham.

THANKS

I WOULD like to thank the women and young man who looked after me until the ambulance arrived when I fell at the top of Priestgate, Darlington, on Tuesday, September 19.

My grateful thanks also to the doctors and nurses in the accident and emergency department and Ward 34 at Darlington Memorial Hospital. - Olive Singleton, Darlington.