Town’s future

AS somebody who started my business 30 years ago in Darlington town centre the latest announcements from Binns and Marks and Spencer fired me up to organise the well-attended public event last week, under the positive theme, ‘I’m Backing Darlington’.

Obviously, the trends towards online shopping is a primary reason for the depressed High Street. However, in Darlington we appear to be faring worse. Before the announcement of the M&S and Binns closures there were 85 empty units in the town equivalent to 15 per cent of the total retail 3.9 per cent higher than the national average off 11.1 per cent. The vacant units account for 14.2 percent of the floor space available, again higher than the national average of 9.5 per cent. Last year 24 stores closed and nine opened, one of the worst performances in the North-East, but nearby Stockton had a net gain.

Given that over many years, people in the town have objected to the rise of parking restrictions, more pedestrianisation and new charges to park on the street, it is entirely fair to point out that the decline was predicted.

Although the meeting has not morphed into a fully-fledged campaign, there is strong demand for one. However, for the moment the key people have asked for the council’s formal response to the ideas that emerged, which were:

• Free two-hour parking throughout the town.

• Radical review of town centre sites to be developed.

• Reduction in the size of the town centre, create a new core and build out from it.

• Create more homes within town centre.

• Return the outdoor market to the Market Square to create focal point.

• Allow parking in the Market Square and increase spaces on Skinnergate.

• Embrace digital businesses with special support.

• Introduce a more effective Anti-Social Behaviour Team and Youth Engagement Team.

• Introduce Park & Ride system for office workers, freeing space for shoppers.

• Create a town centre regeneration company, with planning oversight.

• Identify a new town centre core and build out.

• Create attractive ‘corridor’ from railway station to the town centre.

• Dynamically promote Darlington as the birthplace of the railways in run up to Stockton & Darlington Railway’s 2025 anniversary.

• Promote more start-up businesses.

• Cover the town’s historic yards – forming all weather shopping streets.

My challenge to the council is to embrace the ideas that came from our local community and to do so with haste.

Graham Robb, Darlington

Brexit ‘betrayal’

THERESA May has finally stabbed the nation in the back.

With her lily-livered Cabinet approving the softest Brexit proposal imaginable, the majority of the electorate are incensed. In a three-page statement, the British government announced the Cabinet was finally united on a "collective position" over EU withdrawal; one that will see us quit the EU in name only.

May's proposal to the EU will include a "common rulebook" on all industrial goods and agricultural products, also known as a Single Market. Furthermore, she seeks to establish a "facilitated customs arrangement", also known as a Customs Union. In addition, she expressed a commitment to "labour mobility" – you guessed it, free movement.

Mass migration will continue in spite of its rejection by 17.4m voters only two years ago.

All three of these components of a Brexit deal were explicitly dismissed in the Conservative Party's 2017 election manifesto. Now they are official government policy.

This Tory government’s softest-possible Brexit approach can be summed up in just one word - betrayal

Cllr Steve Kay, Moorsholm

Agree to differ

I HOPE that your readers will forgive me for continuing a correspondence that started with Joseph Lambert’s letter of June 15, which drew responses from me and others, and a further letter from Joseph Lambert on July 6.

The subject was Brexit, as it has been in the letters page of almost every edition of the D&S Times since the referendum. As so often, the correspondence spilled out into other topics – grammar, the meaning of patriotism, and the etiquette of political debate.

In his more recent letter, Joseph Lambert repeats his assertion that people who voted for remain are unpatriotic. As someone who loves this country, and voted to remain, I find his assertion gratuitously offensive.

At several points in both of his letters, Joseph Lambert uses aggressive and antagonistic words and phrases – “remainiacs”, “petty and trivial”, “childish squabble”. These don’t advance his argument, they simply serve to express his anger and distain. Many of your pro-Brexit correspondents over the last two years have been similarly angry and dismissive, despite being on the winning side in the referendum. I wonder how they would have written if they had lost.

Can’t we agree to differ, respect one another’s good faith, and express ourselves moderately and politely?

Dave Dalton, Richmond

Special skills?

YOU report that our police and crime commissioner, Julia Mulligan, is to be part of an expert panel examining how women are treated in the justice system (D&S Times, July 6).

My dictionary defines expert as a “person having special skill or knowledge”. What special skill or knowledge does our PCC have? As far as I am aware her only association with the justice system is her abysmal performance since she was appointed our PCC and her only qualification for membership of the panel is that she is a woman. Ridiculous.

You go on to report the PCC saying there needs to be a “step change” in how women are dealt with and that no one should be in any doubt that change is needed to support women whose lives are turned upside down by being given needless sentences that have no benefit to anyone.

Typical of her that she has reached her conclusions and makes such pronouncements before the panel has even met. She decided to sell Newby Wiske Hall before she was even appointed and had looked into the matter properly. Look what a mess she made of that.

I find it somewhat surprising that she has been appointed to this panel not only because of her want of special skills or knowledge and her poor track record but also because now of all times she should be concentrating on avoiding repetition of the mismanagement displayed in her police role when taking over management of the fire service.

She should not have been invited to be a member of this panel and having been invited she should have declined membership.

David Severs, former chief superintendent, Northallerton

Too narrow

I READ with interest the assorted comments about parking issues in Northallerton.

My reason for avoiding the town or in fact anywhere that only provides minimal width bays, be it the agreed standard or not, is that during the last five years I have had my vehicles doors dented or scratched on four occasions.

The cost to date for repairs is almost £1,500 and my car is only a comparatively narrow Auris.

Why should I pay to park in bays that will almost certainly result in my vehicle being damaged?

I would happily pay more for a bay that is a couple of feet wider than the norm.

Most two-door cars and SUV / 4-wheel drives have larger than average doors yet parking bays don’t seem to have become any wider than they were when the first Mini was introduced.

Councils and private car parking companies have become too greedy and initiated a “pack ‘em in” policy.

Steve Beaumont, Wensley

Speed limit

I WAS interested by the statement in your story about the Morton-on-Swale Bridge (D&S Times, June 29) that Highways are reluctant to introduce a speed restriction because the A684 is a main road.

Surely moving the current 30mph speed limit sign from the east side to the west side of the bridge, a matter of some 250 yards or so, is no different to the move of the 30mph speed limit sign on Stokesley Road, Northallerton (also the A684) when the new roundabout was built. The move of the latter I might add was, seemingly, done without any recourse to any form of public notice or consultation.

Highways, it would seem, are a law unto themselves who seem to do what they like when it suits them but when it doesn’t come up with all sorts of petty bureaucratic nonsense in order to prevent sensible, low cost solutions.

Robert Carter, Brompton

Straighten road

IN regard to calls for inquiry after Morton-on-Swale bridge was hit again (D&S Times, June 29) it seems to me that the answer is staring Highways in the face. The problem of the bridge being hit so many times is because the road sweeps round on the approach from the Bedale side curving over the bridge.

Why not straighten the road’s approach? The cost would be offset by all the times the bridge wouldn’t have to be repaired.

Kate Jones, Bedale

Floral destruction

FOLLOWING on from the letter from Isabel Walker regarding wild orchids (D&S Times, July 6), during the first week of May I travelled on a bus from Richmond to Darlington.

After Blackwell Bridge the roadside on the left was just covered in beautiful wild flowers. I could not get off the bus to identify them, but from the bridge until beyond the turn-off into Blackwell village the whole roadside was mauve and purple, with, I think, either cuckoo flowers or dame’s violets.

What a joy to brighten my morning. I hoped that they would be allowed to set seed.

Within a week I made the same journey again and not one flower had survived some over-zealous maintenance person mowing the roadside verges.

As these flowers do not grow to any height that would endanger either traffic or pedestrians this was wanton destruction.

The right hand of the public purse is paying to preserve wild flower meadows. The left hand of the public purse is paying for wild flowers to be destroyed. Should they not be called to account?

Marion Moverley, Richmond

Thank you

OVER the past few weeks in and around Richmond we have seen a number of people picking up litter, weeding, sweeping and also painting. We have a bus shelter with sheep painted on it, which has been done very well. They look very contented as they sit and watch traffic going past at the traffic lights at the bottom of Gallowgate Hill.

This work has been carried out by 'Mr Stuart Parsons and various people, all volunteers, to ensure our 'Richmond' is looking its best for the Britain in Bloom' competition .

Richmond does look its best due to the hard work of all those who helped and took part.

Those of us who would have liked to have helped but weren't able to due to age or infirmity or other reasons would like to say '' Thank You'' to those doing such an excellent job.

Margaret Emmerson, Richmond

Happy ending

I CAN confirm that Ollander Bolland mentioned in Looking Back (D&S Times, July 6) did survive the First World War and was still alive after the Second World War.

He was my father’s uncle and lived with his wife Muriel at Water End in Brompton. As far as I recall they had no children, and we knew him as Uncle Lander.

We lived in Middlesbrough and my father used to pick Uncle Lander up and take him to the Boro matches every Boxing Day.

Patricia Sidgwick, Stokesley