Leave no trace

BANK HOLIDAYS, longer and warmer days, the fresh spring air; these are all signals to get up and get out into the countryside.

'Let's go for a walk!' This is one of the fervent calls of spring; it is an urge to shake off the winter blues; to put down those mobiles, tablets and computer games and head outdoors.

Nature must dread the rumblings in the towns and the vibrations on the roads as the humans head for the country. For those same humans, who cry whilst watching the pollution in the oceans of the Blue Planet or take days off school campaigning to protect the environment, are damaging the countryside they come to visit.

Looking at Roseberry Topping outlined against a clear blue sky, above the fresh green buds of the oaks below. One can understand its attraction for walkers.

Then look down at the deep muddy ruts where haphazardly-parked cars have damaged the grass verges. And, when the cars depart, the sad trail of litter can be seen. It is left along the road spoiling this unique beauty spot, one of North Yorkshire's many treasures.

Residents of Newton-under-Roseberry must dread the fine days as cars overflow onto their pavements, grass and block their driveways. However, it is the litter that must cause them the most frustration. The cars leave, but the litter stays behind.

Perhaps David Attenborough should be encouraged to make a programme about the Green Planet that is our countryside.

Ian Wilson, mentioned the black bags hanging in trees; Julia Cardy, worried about the scourge of plastic from farms; and the leader writer opened the Comment and Opinion pages with a plea for responsible disposal of waste (D&S Times, April 12).

It starts with one crisp packet, one sweet wrapper, one water bottle or one coffee cup. Sadly, it ends with fly-tipping. Let's do some spring-cleaning outdoors and remember – leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home (Countryside Code).

Terence Fleming, Guisborough

Tour de France

THE front page of story (D&S Times, April 12) reported some councillors views on Tour de France issues – but were these views much more fiction than fact?

Councillor John Blackie wrongly claims for le Tour the roads were closed for eight hours to emergency service vehicles. Only normal motor traffic was excluded.

With his extensive local knowledge, Cllr Blackie should have been aware of special ambulance facilities set up in each of the Dales, the air ambulance service being on stand-by, the police radio network, race radio beaming up to an aircraft and all the riders being in radio contact of the race controllers meant ambulance attendance, if needed, would have been much quicker than a typical 45 minutes response in much of the Upper Dales.

From my vantage point on Grinton Moor I watch a vet driving a 4x4 up Swaledale with a police escort one and a half hours before the race was due down Swaledale.

Farmers were given extended time to normal motorists to clear the roads.

The staff of the Coppice Cafe at Aysgarth Falls slept in the cafe overnight to maximise their Tour income. When there is a will there is a way to resolve most one-day issues!

There was an implication in the report motorists not prepared to walk a hundred yards should be allowed on the road ten minutes before the race. The reality was parking centres were set up and many tens of thousand prepared to walk or cycling were on the major climbs in the Dales. Thousands of locals were on the roadside in Leyburn.

Cllr Yvonne Peacock seems not to know the difference between a rolling road closure and closure of a major climb where there is little human habitation and crowds five to 15 deep on each side of the road. The Buttertubs and Grinton Moor are scheduled to be closed to motorists for several hours, as is Sutton Bank in the years it is used by the Tour de Yorkshire.

While I cannot speak for the Buttertubs, there were Portaloos near my vantage point on Grinton Moor. Ten minutes after the race a team of volunteers, including me, were clearing litter. I saw nothing "disgusting".

If there were no Portaloos delivered to the Buttertubs obviously this needs resolving for the World Cycling Championships in September.

Were a few inconvenienced? Maybe if they like moaning for the sake of moaning, but councillors – why not strike a balance between reality and the myths in your minds?

Leonard Shepherd, Leyburn

One Party State

YOUR coverage of the candidates for the forthcoming Hambleton District Council elections (D&S Times, April 12) notes correctly that the Conservative Party has had "overall control of the authority since 1999".

It fails to identify the perilous state of local democracy arising from the current situation where there is no opposition in the council chamber and offices at all. Of 28 councillors 27 are Conservatives and one UKIP. To make matters worse, the Conservatives operate a Cabinet system, which allows only a handful of elite members access to crucial information, advice and decision making powers.

As a result, between elections, even the majority of councillors are not privy to, nor able to shape, local policy and delivery.

By accident or design, we must wake up to the reality that we live in, a one party state, with all the attendant problems that implies.

The Vale of York Labour Party are fielding candidates in every most wards in the Hambleton District to allow you to redress this situation by electing some councillors, who will then be able to know what is happening, input other voices for local residents, challenge power and seek a more effective, representative and responsible local government.

Even the election of one Labour candidate will open up the council to accountability and allow access to what is now a closed shop.

Without the random exposure from the local press or a despairing insider, we would know little or nothing of the governance issues surrounding the Forum, the Treadmill, Sowerby Gateway, Bagby Airport, Lambert Hospital, Northallerton and Thirsk markets and Brompton road closures.

Labour wish to reverse this situation and bring new voices, interests and arguments to our local councils.

Dr John R Gibbins, Vale of York Labour Party

Brick chucker

BISHOP AUCKLAND Labour MP, Helen Goodman, said in an article (D&S Times, April 12) that, “chucking a brick is not a resolution to Brexit”.

Clearly, she was insinuating that the brick was thrown by a Leave supporter.

Mrs Goodman’s recent support in Parliament for the UK to continue to apply EU sanctions on Venezuela will have upset Jeremy Corbyn and all of his Momentum supporters. Given Momentum’s penchant for abusing Labour MPs who do not show wholehearted support for Corbyn and Momentum, is it not more likely that they were the culprits?

Or it could be that a democratically minded Remain supporter, frustrated at the fact that Parliament has been unable to get us out of the evil empire, on time, twice, has realised that our MPs' dithering is costing us £1bn a month of taxpayers' money.

If you prefer not to have Mrs Goodman as your MP, then vote for a Leave-supporting candidate at the European elections and the next general election.

Alastair P.G. Welsh, Aycliffe Village


THE anniversary of the Amritsar shootings in 1919, on April 13, brought back memories of my three day stay at the temple in 1964. My room at the temple gave me a wonderful view and I was allowed to wander in and out at my leisure to see inside the beautiful layout and observe both the rich and poor offering prayers and gifts while soft music was played.

I was not aware of the event that had taken place those many years ago, even so, I wandered around taking photos while being followed by a group of children all wanting their photos taken.

I also visited the Post Office, was given tea and biscuits and saw postmen preparing mail for dispatch.

Happy memories of my time in India as I made my way to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka and onto Australia.

Derek Whiting, Stokesley

NHS funding

JANE SAUNDERS (D&S Times, April 12) seeks to blame the Blair and Brown governments for the present dearth of anaesthetists.

She really cannot make such sweeping claims without supporting evidence. Was there then an indication of a major shortage in that speciality?

How many students entered medical school? How many then looked to that speciality and went into the NHS or even remained in the UK?

To knock Tony Blair, she must have a very short memory or have been on another planet.

My wife and I remember the dozen years before 1997 only too well. You were likely to wait months not weeks for an outpatient appointment.

When you got one, it was likely to be cancelled or changed at least once.

And, when you attended, you might wait and wait to be seen. I remember on one occasion we waited over two hours.

The consultant was profuse in his apologies. He said there should be five consultants in his team, but were only three. That had been the situation for a long time.

The health authority was refusing to recruit because of lack of money. He encouraged us to complain, but my wife wouldn’t let me.

After we had waited a very long time, another consultant told us he had been directed to give patients only ten minutes each so as to get more appointments into a session.

That was impossible in most cases, and the list simply dragged-on and on causing long waiting times for patients on the day.

Blair committed himself to funding the NHS properly. Some say he did not spend money wisely. I don’t know whether that is the case, but within two or three years the changes were not just noticeable, they were dramatic. Appointments came quickly. They were rarely changed, and you rarely waited on the day.

Things simply went much more smoothly. I remember an occasion when my wife had been seen by a consultant. He had not been able fully to complete a procedure just as he wanted, and would see her again.

He said he did not have another clinic at the Friarage for a while, but if she went to Darlington Memorial the following Wednesday he would see her – and he did.

I am not suggesting that everything was sweetness and light in the Blair/Brown period, but the wheels of the NHS were meshing much better and there was a more relaxed atmosphere – to the benefit of both medical staff and patients.

Without doubt, the injection of money was the major factor.

Mervyn Wilmington, Harmby

Public money

I HAVE heard on local radio news that the government is to close down its no deal Brexit department, which apparently has cost £44bn, add to that the £33m paid out for a ferry company with no ferries.

We seem to have lost an awful lot of money recently, but we still have an NHS, police, fire brigade, and pot holes in all the roads that for some reason cannot be given funding to sort out their problems.

I take it that the prime minister's comments not so long ago that austerity was over was not quite correct. It seems to me that this government has no clue as to what they are doing or where they are going and they certainly have no priority as to running the country properly.

I think that the overrated and overpaid MPs should be replaced with normal working people as we seem to have a better grasp on how to run households, businesses and finances.

After all if the many businesses in the UK were run as this country is being run at present then I fear there would be many insolvencies.

C.P.Atkinson, Great Ayton

Splendid sight

THIS afternoon, I walked through the Friary Gardens here in Richmond. They are a splendid sight with the beds of hyacinths in particular giving a visual and fragrant delight.

Thank you, parks department. You really made my day.

Daphne Clarke, Richmond

Simple job

AIR pollution is a subject of concern at present, lots can be done to improve the situation.

Drivers sitting in their cars, engine running, blowing out gas, waiting for passengers or just keeping warm.

Cars and bikers driving fast in low gears.

Maybe parking officers could have another simple job of speaking to offending drivers to reproach them.

Less pollution, less noise, save money

Christopher Stirk, Stokesley


IT is indeed disappointing to learn that Richmond MP, Rishi Sunak, voted for "leave with no deal", aligning himself with the ERG (D&S Times letters, April 5).

All the more disappointing because, when in 2014 he laid out his bid to become the prospective parliamentary Conservative candidate for Richmond, Yorks, he made no mention of Europe.

The European Research Group is the great-grandchild of the Tories of

19th century Britain who represented the landed gentry.

The Whigs were then the party of manufacturing. During the later part of the 20th century the Conservative Party united these two groups, realising that we needed a successful business sector in order to provide such services as health, education, security and pensions.

The splinter party of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg now derides business, both employers and employees.

A split from Europe diminishes us, our prosperity and our influence.

Indeed, it has already diminished us, as we become the laughing stock of the world.

In Europe we have been a major player politically, both in influencing the terms of trade and in our relationship with the rest of the world. To believe that, out of Europe, we can easily make our own rules when trading with other blocks is to live in cloud cuckoo land.

Any agreements will need compromise, something present parliamentarians ignore at their peril.

Susan Latter, Scruton

Steam anniversary

EVERYONE welcomes the news that £20m has been allocated to prepare for the 200th Anniversary of steam railways in 2025 and to acknowledge the contribution made by the Pease family in Darlington.

To restore a vibrant town centre for 2025 and retain our heritage the local council must start planning now.

Austerity is not an issue if they can spend £60,000 on solar litter bins, a £6m multi-storey car park, £8.5m on Beaumont Street office block, not to mention £2m on legal fees and construction work in its failed attempt to close the Pease memorial library.

With only a few easy inexpensive changes the town centre could start to thrive again – free disc parking, allow traffic in Skinnergate, return the market stalls and car parking to the Market Square, remove all unnecessary yellow lines and parking restrictions – free disabled parking and taxi tokens for the elderly. They should also reconsider current bus routes.

Public consultation before the council signed a 100-year lease on the Covered Market for a pittance of a rent together with a £2m loan to the management company without any fixed date for completion of renovation work was foolhardy.

We are now seeing some suggestions but it could be years before they come to fruition – and a proud town expecting thousands of visitors for the 200th anniversary is not able to offer even one public toilet.

Jean Jones, Darlington

Police mergers

THE Durham Constabulary Chief Constable will retire later this year and there is a temporary acting Chief Constable in Cleveland, following the unexpected resignation of the appointed Chief Constable.

Both constabularies have a highly-salaried Police Commissioner with an office and administrative staff.

The Durham Constabulary is one of the most highly rated police forces, while the Cleveland constabulary is regularly under review.

The Durham Constabulary is no longer responsible for the major conurbations south of the Tyne or North of the Tees, that are now policed by the Northumbria or Cleveland forces.

I believe it is now opportune to abolish Cleveland constabulary and for its responsibilities north of the Tees to be transferred to the Durham Constabulary and those south of the Tees to be transferred to North Yorkshire Police.

There is already close co-operation between these constabularies in certain spheres of criminal investigation so a formal amalgamation of the Durham and Cleveland north of the Tees seems logical.

It might also reduce the cost to council tax payers.

In Scotland, Northern Ireland and part of England there have already been very effective amalgamations of separate territorial constabularies.

I have recommended the re-organisation of Durham and Cleveland Police to the Home Secretary and await his response.

Norman Welch, Darlington

Modern slavery

MODERN slavery is one of the great evils of our time and it is happening under our noses. The latest figures suggest up to 136,000 people in the UK could be enslaved, forced into unpaid work, such as nail bars, prostitution, car washes etc. In response, the Co-operative Party is campaigning on modern slavery.

We’re calling for local councils to root out exploitative practices in their supply chains by signing our ten point charter (see Co-op Party website).

We are puzzled as to why Hambleton District councillors haven’t replied to any of our letters, emails and phone calls, asking if they would like to sign up to, or discuss, the charter.

Given that all political parties wholeheartedly condemn modern slavery; there is evidence of the pernicious practice in every UK postcode and, since there have been prosecutions in North Yorkshire, it is deeply concerning that Hambleton District Council hasn’t responded at all. We are sending a copy of this letter to the chief executive of Hambleton and hope for a reassuring reply.

We are pleased that North Yorkshire County Council immediately considered and adopted the charter, along with 100 other councils of differing political persuasions.

British councils spend more than £40bn procuring services through contracts annually. This means they have significant leverage with which to eliminate the barbaric practice of modern slavery in their supply chains.

Readers can learn more about our campaign and add support on www-party.coop/modern-slavery/signup.

Eileen Driver, on behalf of North Yorks Co-op Party

Hospital smokers

SMOKERS outside hospital entrances – visitors, patients on drips, pregnant women – just light up with disregard to others.

If we have to pay to park in hospital grounds, pre-known or as an emergency, given hospitals have security persons, why can’t smokers be fined quite substantially?

They are just making a mockery of the health service. How would they feel if treatment would be rejected due to commitment to smoking knowing the possible results? I am an ex-smoker.

P A Jackson, Richmond

Have respect

I HAVE just read about the smoking ban at The James Cook and The Friarage hospitals.

I do hope they have more success than the Memorial Hospital in Darlington. I have witnessed patients smoking near the main entrance attached to drips they have dragged from the wards, pregnant women sitting on a bench near the entrance to the women’s centre and visitors lighting up while they are waiting for transport.

They smoke while standing on writing that tells them not to smoke in hospital grounds.

There are beautiful flower tubs created by a lovely lady and all her hard work is being used as ashtrays.

Come on, people, have some respect for yourselves and other hospital visitors that have to walk through the lingering smoke and the horrible smell it leaves.

Margaret Stabler, Darlington