Billingham FORUM

SO, Stockton Council expects a backlash against getting rid of the town's ice rink even though it claims that 77 per cent of residents who responded would prefer a supermarket to the Forum and 61 per cent would want a new leisure centre in place of John Whitehead Park, the last green plot in Billingham town centre.

Another supermarket is as much as the collective council imaginations can conjure up.

Here is a possible solution: maintain the theatre until 2003 when the lease runs out, in the meantime build a new leisure centre out of town on the old plot of Billingham baths that is currently wasting away. This will reduce traffic in the town centre, easing the current chronic parking problems and save the park for the sanity of residents and the nesting birds.

Tree sparrows have declined by nearly 90 per cent since 1970. There is already one very able supermarket in town; the existing shopping facilities are fine.

Leave something your children and grandchildren will truly remember you for - a little piece of green with birdsong and somewhere to relax after a hard day's shopping. - R Baker, Billingham.


IF Tony Blair wants teaching to be "the most prestigious profession in the country" (Echo, Nov 26), his starting point should be putting discipline back into the schools.

As things stand, in many schools, teachers are neither respected nor obeyed because they have had all their means of maintaining authority taken away.

Pupil power is in control. The children know this and they exploit it to the hilt, demanding their "rights" regarding uniforms and any number of matters.

Unless the teachers are seen to be the ones in authority, the ones who say what is or is not done in the classroom, there will continue to be little or no respect for teachers and the chronic shortage of staff suffered by many schools will only become worse. - EA Moralee, Billingham.


THE Government's plan to introduce a bill to ban the advertising and promotion of tobacco products, announced in the Queen's speech, is a classic example of crude gesture politics.

Research shows a ban will not reduce smoking. Children generally start smoking because of peer pressure and the only people who are really influenced by tobacco advertising are existing smokers who may decide to change their regular brand. Sadly, politicians are determined to pursue their petty persecution of smokers. Reneging on voluntary regulation (and ignoring the decision by the European Court of Justice which recently overturned a ban on tobacco advertising throughout Europe), the Government has demonstrated an authoritarian itch to censor our free press that bodes ill for a mature society.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of smoking, tobacco is a legal product and consumers should be allowed to receive legitimate product information. What next? A ban on advertisements for alcohol, fast cars and dairy products? - Simon Clark, Director, Forest.


IN recent weeks all we have heard from the anti-Europeans is hysterical non-factual talk of "super-states" and "European armies".

The purpose of the Nice Summit was to secure real benefits for the people of Britain. Whatever was or was not achieved in Nice, the British people deserve fair and accurate reporting of the consequences of EU enlargement.

The myth-raking and ignorance of some parts of the press is frustrating because the benefits of our relationship with the European Union are rarely put. Over three million jobs depend on British exports to the European Union and Nice has agreed reforms that will make way for an enlarged European Union.

Those who try to block enlargement and talk about Europe as the enemy put the future prosperity of Britain at risk. As Malcolm Rifkind said: "It is my strong belief that enlarging the European union to the East will enhance the security and prosperity of all the peoples of Europe... and will bring benefits to Europe as a whole and to Britain in particular." - Peter Freitag, Chairman, Tees Branch, European Movement.


THIS is a time of year when we all consume more food than usual. If, like me, you care about high standards of farm animal welfare and the environment, there are two labels to look for when you do your Christmas shopping.

Organic labelled products are produced naturally with environmental sustainability in mind. The RSPCA's Freedom Food label gives you the assurance that the products come from animals reared to stringent welfare standards.

So please look for these labels this Christmas and if you can't find them, ask! The more people demand such products, the more supermarkets will stock them.

Happy Christmas and good eating to you all. - Sophie Grigson.


I CONGRATULATE The Northern Echo on the successful introduction of its CommuniGate initiative, which I believe will bring a valuable service to individuals, non profit-making groups and charities throughout the North-East.

In our society, which is increasingly influenced by information technology, CommuniGate gives a voice to those who are involved in voluntary work. The scheme allows sports clubs, schools, charitable groups, residents' associations and other non profit-making organisations to develop valuable IT skills by building and maintaining a website for their group using software specially designed for first-time web-builders.

I hope that this major investment in local communities by The Northern Echo will be supported by the local business community. - Dr Marjorie Mowlam, MP for Redcar, Minister for the Cabinet Office.

CommuniGate is at