Yorkshire Dales

I FIND it rather strange that John Blackie has yet again slammed an authority which he has sat on, and helped shape, for 21 years (D&S Times letters, Jan 11). Like all members of the authority, Mr Blackie voted in favour of the barn conversion policy which he now criticises.

The policy is a lot more flexible than the one it replaced; over 100 applications have been approved under it, with only eight refusals.

But the policy doesn’t, and cannot, allow a free-for-all across the unique farmed landscape of the Dales. Whilst many barns are in suitable locations for conversion near to roads, we can’t alter the fact that many simply aren’t – being set in fields in open countryside.

Mr Blackie also ignores the fact that there are already planning permissions or land allocations for 400 new homes in the National Park. We just need the developers to get building them – and we are working with our partners in the district councils to try to make that happen. It is an irony not lost on me that we have landowners trying to get permission to convert wholly unsuitable barns whilst not releasing land that has been specifically allocated for new housing development.

Lastly, Mr Blackie misrepresents again the authority’s stance on second homes. Restrictions on the growth in the number of second homes was a policy advocated by Mr Blackie until his dramatic U-turn last year. The authority’s position remains that we would like to work with and support the other local authorities to try to reduce the number of under-occupied properties in the National Park; an approach that is also strongly supported by South Lakeland District Council.

Carl Lis, chairman, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority


JOHN BLACKIE’S letter (D&S Times letters, Jan 11) about the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s planning policy is long on rhetoric and short on solutions.

The park’s staff and members share Mr Blackie’s concern about homes for young families, and it is insulting to imply that they don’t.

But the park has a duty to preserve the landscape of the Dales – the landscape that earned the designation as a national park in the first place. To approve every application for a barn conversion or a new build would soon destroy the unique beauty of this precious but fragile landscape.

A barn conversion doesn’t just turn a farm building into a house. It brings with it all the features of a modern household: an all-weather drive, hard standing, one or more parked cars, television aerial, washing line, gardens, and the rest.

Isolated barns standing in fields are one of the most distinctive features of the Dales landscape, and converting one of them replaces this feature with a little piece of suburbia that could be anywhere in the country.

One of the factors that make it difficult for young families to find a home in the Dales is the number of houses that are used as second homes or holiday lettings.

When the park suggested a way to discourage second home ownership, there was a well-orchestrated outcry, in which Mr Blackie joined. Is he on the side of the hard-up young families looking for an affordable home in the Dales – or on the side of the well-off defending their privilege? Or is he, to quote another populist politician, "in favour of having cake and in favour of eating it"?

If Mr Blackie chooses to answer this question, perhaps he could also guarantee that every application for a barn conversion is intended to create a home which a young family can afford – and that no application is simply an attempt by a well-off landowner to cash in on an asset, to sell as a second home or use as a holiday let.

Your readers may have gathered from Mr Blackie’s letter that he is a lone crusader defending local people from the Park Authority. In fact he is a member of the park’s board, and of the planning committee. He had an opportunity to put his case, and he lost the argument. In trying to denigrate other members after the event, his letter shows him in a poor light.

Dave Dalton, Richmond


I WOULD like to congratulate all those who participated in the carol singing sessions at Harmby and Spennithorne for their valiant efforts.

We were originally intending to sing on three nights during the week before Christmas, however this got off to a bad start due to the heavy rain which caused us to cancel the first evening.

As the weather improved, in Spennithorne we were joined by several new singers and some young people, all experienced carol singers. In Harmby we were joined by two friends who led us as we sang and another young person who were also all experienced carol singers.

All the singers would like to express their appreciation for the warm welcome and generous refreshments we received on both evenings.

We wish to thank everyone who gave donations which amounted to £255 in total. This was equally divided between The Children’s Society and Action for Children. We fully intend to come carol singing next Christmas and will make welcome everyone who would like to join us.

George Tunstall, Harmby


WE should have realised over the last two-and-a-half years that the EU referendum did not tell us why people wanted to leave, and that the two sides have equal legitimacy in referenda.

We have had long lists of economic and political events wrongly attributed to the EU, such as the Afghan war.

The suggestion by the correspondent (D&S Times letters, Jan 4) that we should use Brexit to destabilise our neighbours would make Winston Churchill turn in his grave.

The EU was formed partly to reduce the risk of war or other types of conflict.

Darlington may not need unskilled labour from the EU, but many parts of the country do for horticulture, farming, restaurants, the hotel industry etc.

I recollect being evacuated, together with staff, during a hotel fire alarm in the South East.

The staff consisted of one Brit and more than 20 other EU nationals.

It’s easy to say that British people should do the work, but not everyone will, or can, start at 6am. Are such hotels to close?

We will be poorer both economically and culturally from being outside the EU.

James Robinson, Morton on Swale

Getting on

I AM very aware of the anger about the Brexit process (much of it aired here in these pages) and I do not underestimate the importance of the issue to the future of the country. I write as someone who voted to leave in the 2016 referendum and has grave misgivings about where we are heading.

But I do want to ask readers to think beyond Brexit and about other issues that the country faces. People might not get so angry about these issues and despite the fact they have not filled the columns of newspapers, airtime on the TV news and prompted billions of social media posts they are still important.

I'd particularly like to praise the behaviour of our MP, Rishi Sunak, who throughout has just got on with his job. Last week you reported (D&S Times, Jan 11) on what he is doing as a minister to ensure severely disabled children and young adults have access to appropriate changing places so they can live fulfilled lives.

This isn't the sort of glamourous politics some of his colleagues in Westminster have been indulging themselves in in recent weeks but typical of a man who seems to want to get things done – in this instance for constituents whose voices might not have been heard if he had not taken the trouble to visit the Dales School as a diligent constituency MP and listened to their parents' concerns.

As I write this, I do not know how he is going to vote in this week's important vote on the Brexit deal but I guess as a minister he has to back the government. Like almost everyone else who voted to leave the EU I imagine he has misgivings about the deal. I certainly do.

But we have to move on and I am grateful that our MP has not, like many of his colleagues, issued a running commentary on Brexit. We don't need more arguing. There is other stuff to do.

Bethany Morris, Stokesley

NHS planning

AT some point in all our lives, we have needed to use our National Health Service and required the assistance of the dedicated, highly-skilled professionals who work for it every single day.

Everyone living in this part of the world has a tale to tell about the treatment and care they, or a loved one, has received from the NHS.

Despite being 70 years old now, the NHS is still the envy of many countries across the world because it offers free care to all at the point of delivery, regardless of age or background.

And it is because of the wonderful NHS staff, the NHS services and the NHS values, that we welcome the Government’s long-term plan for the NHS to help us protect it for generations to come.

The multi-billion pound plan will set out to transform patient care, employ tens of thousands more doctors, nurses and health professionals across the country and improve outcomes for all major conditions.

It aims to provide the best maternity care in the world, ensure older people get the best care available and utilise the latest digital technology to build upon the last 70 years and take the NHS into the future.

But it is not just about the extra money being invested – the plan promises to cut NHS waste and make sure every penny of taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.

Everyone has a view on the NHS and its future and as Conservative Parliamentary candidates we will fight to ensure we have the best possible health and social care services for everybody living and working in this region.

We firmly believe this plan is the best way to make sure the NHS is always there for you and your family.

Dehenna Davison-Fareham, Peter Gibson and Matt Vickers, Conservative Parliamentary candidates for Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Stockton South

Sad times

WITH the Christmas holidays over, it’s time to reflect on the year that has passed. Christmas is the only time we hear from some friends and relations with a card. If a card does not turn up it makes you wonder what’s happened.

Sadly for us, we found out two of our friends had passed away during the year, so Christmas time can be sad as well as happy.

GO Wright, Sadberge

New sources

WHEN fracking in the UK was first advocated, it was believed that with North Sea gas production falling, the country could be hostage to rising energy prices.

Six years later things are very different. New sources of gas from the US and central Asia have become available, gas prices have halved and there is no shortage of supplies in Europe or across the world.

In addition, over the last five years the cost of energy from solar and wind power has halved, and this diversity protects our energy security.

Shale gas in the US can be cheaply extracted from vast reservoirs. However, the geology of Britain is very different: shale fields are small and scattered, making fracking much less productive and more expensive.

The capital expenditure required even to begin drilling operations, together with the much lower likelihood of success, makes fracking in Britain barely economically viable – especially when it has to compete with falling energy prices.

Yet the Government remains in the pocket of the fracking industry.

Manchester has joined London, Leeds, Wakefield, Hull and York in opposing fracking. Scotland and Wales already have moratoriums in place. Please tell your local MP that we are supposed to be living in a democracy and we don't want to be the guinea pig victims of a commercial gamble that could well backfire.

Dr Peter Williams, Malton


I HAVE often thought over the years that our party politicians can’t be that stupid, however, I have come to the conclusion they can be, and many are.

The stupidity and greed of many professional politicians should never be under-estimated. All members of parliament should have an IQ test before they are allowed to stand.

Governments should exist to protect the people and provide infrastructure.

Politicians have encouraged us to expect Government to provide everything for its people, thereby, maintaining control over our lives so they can retain power and their jobs.

Equally important is that there is a need for the citizens taking responsibility of our own lives and not rely on the State to provide everything for us. We need more independent politicians to give a more balanced Government, their loyalty and allegiance would be to the electorate and not a political party.

John H Waiting, Guisborough

Losing support

AFTER voting Labour at every local, by-election and general election for more than 50 years I’ve finally decided enough is enough.

The Labour party no longer represents the working man, especially in the North-East.

Its hierarchy all have adjoining affluent constituencies in North London, there’s more Labour party members now in Hampstead than there are in Hartlepool, so they only promote and look after those in their little London bubble.

The North-East Labour MPs all have their own self-promoting agendas and no longer listen to their constituents.

If this continues, the North-East will no longer be a Labour stronghold.

John Briggs, Darlington