LETTERS - It’s a mad, mad world

I AM more and more convinced that it is a mad and callous world that we live in.

As I watched the farmer arrive to fertilize his crop of wheat the other day on the field behind my house, I saw him shake his head in disbelief as he noticed the 30 or so bore holes that an environmental investigative company had drilled in his crop.

They were looking for evidence of old mine workings and they did find plenty of shallow mine workings, many of them flooded and none very far beneath the surface of the field.

The farmer said he would have to contact his agent to obtain compensation for the damage to his crop, he had not of course been informed that such work was taking place. I could see the disappointment written on his face, as piles of grey debris were all too visible in the field at regular intervals.

However, even if the whole crop was affected, I doubt the people responsible would bat any eyelid. They would reach for their cheque book and pay up smiling. How much can a seven hectare field of wheat cost to replace?

To drill those holes in the field a team of men were engaged for three days at a cost of around £3,000 per day, they required a permit from the coal authority to accomplish this task which would cost them around £2,000. Should the company who ordered the drilling require the field to be rendered suitable for building upon, they will probably have to pay around one million pounds to make it sound. And if they obtain planning permission what a pay day awaits as 229 houses will be built.

Set against that, compensation for thirty or so square metres of damaged crop would seem to be a drop in the proverbial ocean.

But the really infuriating part of all this is the fact that what ever was found by the environmental investigative company, for good or ill, does not have to be revealed officially.

When the work was being carried out a resident from Thompson Drive across the railway line saw the investigation work and came to ask if it was something to do with the subsidence that he was experiencing. He has every reason to be worried, as a little while ago Railtrack spent a considerable amount of time and money stabilising a number of old mine shafts on the side of the Main London to Leeds railway line that borders this very field. On several occasions in the past large deep craters have appeared in the field and remedial work has been undertaken by the relevant authorities.

Somewhere a spreadsheet is number crunching. Set against a very large pay day is a very marginal cost, thirty square metres of wheat.

Dr David Foster

Ruskin Avenue