Sir, - The Environment Agency's policy of abandoning the safety teams which used to inspect the Tees and remove trees that could fall into the river when in flood and go on to dam downstream bridges and cause flooding, is putting everyone at risk.

Northumbrian Water used to maintain the banks to such good effect to keep the bridges as free as possible of debris. The build-up of debris on the Yarm bridges, which gets worse every year without the EA doing anything, was unknown until the Nineties.

There is now a double problem. The barrage prevents any tidal movements, which in the past used to work debris free, and debris becomes greater with every flood as the EA allows more and more trees to become a danger.

The latest £6m Yarm flood wall is no defence against dammed bridges. The EA commissioned a hydrological report which told them so in 1994.

The Florence floods of 1966, the worse for 500 years, were caused by debris build-up on the Ponte Vecchio; recent floods in France were caused by debris damming downstream bridges etc due to failure to clear the upstream banks. Yet in spite of knowing all this and probably more, the EA prefers to please environmental tree huggers rather than look after the river to give maximum protection from floods and the safety of people and property.

Is it not time to do something to correct the problem before the inevitable happens? Dari Taylor MP has taken up the issue with the top men at the EA for some time, without the EA showing any sign of concern.


Crofton House,


F&M inquiry

Sir, - Coun Valerie Halton (D&S Oct 25) is a bit late bringing the news that the European Parliament has launched its own inquiry into the foot-and-mouth tragedy. In fact, the inquiry team, in which Green Party MEP Dr Caroline Lucas played a leading part, completed its tour and hearings some time ago.

The full Parliament will consider its report in the December session at Strasbourg.

It will be interesting to see how Martin Callanan and Gordon Adam, the region's MEPs closely involved in the inquiry, will react to its findings. Both were committed to the Government's broad approach to containing the spread of the disease.

The inquiry's draft report, tabled a month ago, includes claims that the Government's handling of the outbreak was too centralised, violated animal welfare legislation and intimidated farmers to the point of trauma. More constructively, it makes a number of recommendations: using vaccination as a first-choice response from the outset, for example, which, if adopted, should ensure future outbreaks result in less devastation to livestock, farmers, wider rural communities and the UK economy.

Perhaps it is too much to hope that they'll question the trafficking in animals over huge distances that helped spread the disease so rapidly.

As Coun Halton reminded readers, our own Government refused to hold a public inquiry. It is all the more important, then, that the D&S will play its part in publicising the EP report and its conclusions, with a view to preventing a repeat of last year's dreadful events


Teesside Green Party

Church Howle Crescent,


Keep it green

Sir, - Green wedge land in Stockton is once again targeted for development (D&S Oct 4). The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) justifiably claims too much green space is being lost in the area.

Coun John Scott, former ward councillor for Thornaby and past chairman of the development and planning services committee of Stockton Borough Council, wrote in 1991: "Widespread concern about our environment demands that established open spaces are not breached by developers. This key priority will remain unchanged."

In contrast to the above, (and the 10 and 12 houses built in Hartlepool and Middlesbrough green wedges since 1996), Stockton Council have approved a number of schemes totalling more than 500 houses - 120 of which, plus a business-industrial estate, comprise just one recent proposal (which may yet go to a public inquiry) - all on green wedge land, over the same period.


Thornaby Road,



Sir, - The concert by the band of The Brigade of Gurkhas and the Pipes and Drums of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, in the Dolphin Centre, Darlington, last Friday raised funds to provide relief for ex Gurkha soldiers of the Second World War and those made redundant since then who did not qualify for an army pension and who now live in conditions of great hardship in Nepal.

I wish to thank all those who showed their support for these old soldiers and their dependants by attending the concert and by the donations made by them and others unable to attend.


Hon Chairman, The Gurkha Welfare Trust (North-East branch)



Sir, - The Teesdale Committee of Cancer Research UK would like to thank Edinburgh Woollen Mill staff and models, Diane Raine and the models from Pampas, the girls from Body Shop at Home, the Shamrocks, Gary Raine, Peter Worley and Barnard Castle WMC for helping to raise £420 towards cancer research.

The Girls' Night Out was a most enjoyable evening, with a lot of hard work put in by the models and dancers.


Sherwood Close,

Barnard Castle