Observer comment

OUR front page story today makes tragic reading.

For two-and-a-half years the family of Piers Hopson have been in limbo, wondering what happened to him after suddenly disappearing in January 2010.

But what makes this story even more tragic is that Piers’ remains were discovered way back in September that year and his family were only told the news a few days ago.

It took three months for French authorities to get around to doing a DNA profile and another whole year before the results were given to relevant agencies here in the UK.

To add further heartache, Piers’ family still don’t know where his body is so they can’t bring him home and lay him to rest.

This smacks of incompetence at the highest level and the blame rests with the French authorities.

Piers’ family would have known of his death as far back as June last year. They would have had closure and perhaps began the process of rebuilding their lives.

Serious questions need to be asked about why, with so many different agencies which deal with missing people, it took until this week for Piers’ family to learn the tragic news.

There will no doubt be an inquest in the near future and hopefully this will bring much-needed answers to Piers’ family.

Let’s hope Piers can be brought home and be laid to rest.

The Observer sends its heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Piers’ family and all those who knew him.

OUR letters pages are this week dominated by the public reaction to the council’s decision to reject the plan to build 150 homes on the Archery Ground on the former Hastings College site.

Observer readers have been unified in their praise for the decision and it shows how welcome it is when local authorities take notice and act on public opinion.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative response from Hastings residents (an impressive 618 letters of complaint and four petitions) it would not have been a surprise if the council had agreed to the controversial plans.

It’s worth remembering that Hastings Borough Council, and local authorities across the country, are under pressure to meet Government targets for new housing, and some argue the planning system is weighed in favour of housing developers.

Too often councillors are scared to say no to development, even if there is huge public opposition, because council planning officers feel there is not sufficient legal reasons to reject them, and are wary of a massive bill if the developer successfully appeals against the original decision.

So the council‘s planning committee perhaps deserves some recognition for taking the bold decision last week.

Certainly our readers seem to think so and the councillors would do well to take note of their empathic reactions to the council’s actions.

Sometimes public opinion is more important than planning regulations.