WE have just heard the sad news about John Blackie, a man who never ceased working for the Upper Dale, he can at last rest. When we first met John, he had a rather bare office, a desk, a typewriter and a phone, and from there he built his "empire".

Sometimes controversial, he made some mistakes, but then people who never make a mistake, never make anything.

John was a tireless supporter of people living in Wensleydale, always fighting to retain, establish and maintain services which are always under threat, be it schools, transport, health services, or housing.

Whatever the cause, he was there. The quality of life for local people is in large part down to John's determination. Who will ever replace him?

Sue Harpley, Scruton

Wild flowers

RECENTLY the verges and roundabout at the Springhouse end of the Bedale bypass were a joy of wild flowers, but this was turned into a wasteland of cut and rotting vegetation, one example of many.

We are told that insects are experiencing great difficulties in these times of planetary catastrophe, yet the roadside habitats are deliberately and unnecessarily destroyed at this time of year. Why?

Is it not possible to leave them until flowering and seeding are over, so that birds and small animals may also benefit?

Darlington and Stockton Times:

I quote from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring of 1962.

“In the economy of nature the natural vegetation has its essential place… providing food, cover and nesting areas for birds and homes for many small animals… Such vegetation is also the habitat of wild bees and other pollinating insects. Man is more dependent on these wild pollinators than he usually realises… These insects, so essential to our agriculture and, indeed, to our landscape as we know it, deserve something better from us than the senseless destruction of their habitat.”

Mary Clacy, Bedale

Post office

ON a recent Sunday I called at the newly re-located post office in Northallerton High Street. As most folk will know, it's now in the branch of WHSmith bang in the middle of the town centre.

I was pleasantly surprised. Despite everyone saying it will never work in that location, access to the post counters at the back of the store was easy. There is now a large aisle right down the middle big enough for a double buggy and/mobility scooter and there is plenty of space around the counters too.

The woman behind the counter who had transferred to the new premises said it was actually roomier than the old post office and she liked the light and airy feel.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The former post office on Northallerton High Street

What I liked about it was being able to do my post office business on a Sunday.

The revamp of the whole store because of the post office moving there has also improved the WHSmith parts. It feels much less cluttered than it was.

Let's hope a new use can be found for the old post office premises. It could make a novel location for a good quality cafe/restaurant.

Could all the people who suggested that moving the post office to a more convenient, perfectly accessible, location with longer opening hours was the end of civilisation as we know it now acknowledge that they were wrong? Not all change is bad!

Josh Craggs, Northallerton

Good analysis

I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with Rachel Wadsworth's analysis (D&S Times letters, July 12) of the report supported by Rishi Sunak MP about the A&E department at Northallerton's Friarage Hospital.

One key element of the report is the argument, meant to reassure worried local people, that everything will be ok because the same cuts have already been implemented at a range of other hospitals of a similar size and with similar catchment areas across the country.

This is poor logic. Are we meant to be happy that, if we're having something stolen from us, it's okay because other people have also been robbed?

Alarm bells rang in my head when I saw the Friarage being compared to Grantham Hospital as members of my family have been involved in the campaign to save the A&E there.

Far from being accepting of the changes, local people there are furious at their downgraded service. Predictably and despite reassurances to the contrary, sufficient extra resources have not been provided for the ambulance service or the hospitals to which Grantham patients have been diverted.

This means, for example, ambulances waiting ridiculous times in queues outside A&Es with the inevitable poor response times to medical problems elsewhere. Can Rishi reassure us that this won't happen here? Will he resign his seat if it does?

All of this is part of a much bigger national picture of insufficient resources being allocated to our NHS, which seems to be in a downward spiral of ever increasing waiting lists and over-stretched resources despite heroic efforts from dedicated staff. James Cook Hospital is already struggling to cope; what hope is there of improvement there now?

Meanwhile, Rishi's chosen candidate for the leadership of his party, and our next prime minister, is willing to promise tax cuts for the most wealthy but no new money for the NHS – despite the words on that now infamous red bus!

Paul Chapman, Stokesley

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Friarage report

RACHAEL WADSWORTH (D&S Times letters, July 12) is perceptive in highlighting concerns expressed in the report commissioned by Rishi Sunak MP into the decision to downgrade the A&E department of the Friarage Hospital Northallerton.

In particular, do neighbouring hospitals have the capacity to cope with the extra workload created? Downgrading an A&E due to lack of staff does not solve a problem – merely moves it elsewhere. Healthcare is labour intensive. By deduction, the same number of doctors and other clinical staff will continue to be needed. It is illogical to think otherwise.

Hospitals under threat of closure or downgrading fail to attract staff. This can only be reversed by robust political and community support. The current government appears to be ideologically committed to centralisation with the accompanying gradual shutting down of excellent local district general hospitals. This is certainly not ideal for local residents.

Dr Malila Noone, Darlington

Make it work

AS I understand it, the situation at the Friarage Hospital can now be summarised in this way.

The hospital trust was forced into making emergency changes to A&E and critical care back in March because they couldn't recruit the doctors to run a safe service. We now have an 24/7 Urgent Treatment Centre.

Since then the senior doctors running the Friarage say the Urgent Treatment Centre is the best option for our emergency care. My GP and I understand other local GPs agree with them. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine agrees with them. The Royal College of Anaesthetists agrees with them. The healthcare consultants hired by the Richmond MP Rishi Sunak agree with them.

Meanwhile, a bunch of people on Facebook called the Save the Friarage Hospital Campaign group continue to oppose the changes in the face of all the evidence. Their bid to force a judicial review is, I reckon, costing hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money – whether that is money spent by the hospital trust to defend the action or the legal aid being racked up by the campaign group (which incidentally has signally failed to raise any significant sums themselves).

No wonder an increasing number of people, like Cllr Jim Clark (D&S Times, July 5) are calling on the group to call off this ill-founded exercise in social media rabble-rousing, some of which has been downright abusive of the doctors and other staff who are responsible for our local health services. No wonder we can't get doctors to work there.

We need to get behind our much-loved local hospital by backing the doctors and staff that work there and help them to make the new arrangements work in all our interests.

Trevor Sellars, Bedale

A66 incidents

ANOTHER weekend and another series of accidents and closures on the A66 west of Scotch Corner.

During the recent consultation on the upgrade of the road, I pointed out to the Highways England staff that, prior to the dualling of the A66 past Melsonby and Carkin Moor, we had acceleration lanes to join the A66. Now the traffic is moving faster and there are no acceleration lanes.

Turning left onto the A66 and crossing down towards Gilling from the Winston Road and right from Melsonby is also compromised due to the A66 traffic coming over the row of a hill.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling at the A66

At Carkin Moor the two lanes narrow to one over the brow of a hill too. Highways England said that, because of the new project, the safety at the existing access points would be reviewed at the same time.

We strongly believe that, until the new road sections are opened, there should be a 50mph limit from Sedbury layby to Carkin Moor. It won’t stop all the accidents but it may reduce the severity of those that do occur.

Philip Knowles, chair, Richmondshire Liberal Democrats

National park

I REFER to your story about planning decisions by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (D&S Times, July 12). You give some space to views expressed by the Association of Rural Communities. This sounds like a national organisation, with a large membership, a constitution, elected officers, and clearly stated purpose and policies. A Google search suggests that the association is a group of people living in Wensleydale who distrust the National Park Authority and campaign against some of its decisions. It is disappointing that the D&S report doesn’t make clear the status of ARC.

Among other remarks that you quote, the ARC spokeswoman says that “the authority appeared to be cherry picking plans that it liked”. The planning committee decides applications on the basis of national legislation and its own planning policies, taking the advice of professional officers and through a process of informed discussion using factual evidence. If an application fits within the established guidelines it will be approved. How does ARC think the decision should be taken? Tossing a coin? Consulting horoscopes? Or just saying yes to every application, however ill-thought-out or inappropriate, until the National Park looks like a suburb of Middlesbrough?

Dave Dalton, Richmond

Globe revamp

I THINK it's only right and proper that the Stockton councillors take another look at the latest round of expenditure in relation to the Globe Theatre (D&S Times Cleveland edition, July 12). They should bear in mind the old adage about throwing good money after bad when they cast their votes.

Meanwhile in my home town of Billingham I see long established council flower beds which are now a wilderness of weeds presumably because of funding issues. I wonder where the cash has gone?

Martin Birtle, Billingham

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Sour grapes

THE new leader of the Conservative Party will be announced on Tuesday. Will the result will be accepted, or will there be a demand for a second election? If not, why are some demanding a second vote on Brexit. Seems to me like sour grapes by the Remainers, as the result is the result.

David Williams, Great Ayton

Good Samaritans

ON Thursday afternoon (July 11) I lost control of my scooter whilst riding on a footpath on Romanby Road, Northallerton.

I was thrown from the scooter into the road causing vehicles to stop from either direction.

I was rather shaken by hitting the road but was amazed by the amount of people who came to my assistance.

Everybody assisted me to get to my feet and eventually back on my scooter and all were concerned about my fall.

Unfortunately, I did not recognise any of the people involved, but would like to thank them all for the help I received.

I know now that in adversity we can rely on the people of Northallerton.

G H Hunt, Northallerton

Do the research

IN your letter’s page (D&S Times, July 12) there were two letters regarding pensioners having to pay for their TV licence if over the age of 75.

One letter was for some pensioners who are well able to pay doing so.

Well good luck to them if they can afford to do so.

The other letter was from a Richmond man who has always worked hard over the years and understands what it’s like to have to budget.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

There are many, many pensioners who like to watch TV, perhaps unable to get out and about as they used to and this is their only pleasure.

We are all different and as we all know our circumstances are not the same.

Perhaps the BBC would do well and send a team out to do a bit of research into this matter.

Let them get out and about and talk to people – the working class, not the affluent with the brass.

Margaret Emmerson, Richmond

Soulful thanks

I WOULD like to thank everyone for all the "get well" cards and the "best wishes" sent were to me during my recent health blip. They meant a lot.

Paul Mountford, The Chiropody Clinic, Northallerton

Brown fields

A NUMBER of housing developments on green field sites around Darlington outlined in the draft local plan have caused a great many people to become very upset.

It has been suggested that the funding we once enjoyed to decontaminate brown field sites nearer the town centre has been taken away from the local authority by central government.

But now we have a Conservative council leader and a Conservative Tees Valley mayor under a Conservative government.

Surely it is for the Conservatives in power in Darlington to lobby their own party in government for the restoration of that funding so that brown field sites are developed first?

Why would such a political exercise delay the next stage of the approval of Darlington's Local Plan?

Cllr Nigel Boddy (LibDem), Darlington