Land drainage

REGARDING the comments at Richmond constituency committee “Landowners warned over maintenance duties” (D&S Times, Jan 15).

In my childhood now more than 70 years ago, one of my mentors was employed as the local estates drainer. He spent most of the winter in the bottom of a ditch with a shovel.

Larger jobs were carried out by the internal drainage boards (IDBs), a body local to each catchment financed by drainage rates charged to farmers and houses in the catchment. Many owned or hired draglines to keep the rivers and dikes clear. The IDBs were managed by local farmers and other representatives who used their experience and knowledge to set the programme of works and keep the water flowing.

Then Big Brother stepped in. Over time the Water Authority, the River Authority, the Environment Agency and conservationist rules among others took control believing they could do it better. Which was fine until each of them ran out of money and did nothing.

Now once again farmers are expected to do the work, if they are allowed to by a raft of complex regulation, without the original right to rate properties in the catchment to allow the burden to be carried by all those who benefit.

In my own case, three low lying areas to the north of Stokesley are now housing estates and it was only when the Tameside Estate was built did the various planning authorities require funding to be provided to dredge the River Tame to take the extra fast flowing water, running off all the hard surfaces, away.

About three feet of accumulated sludge was removed from the river and, surprise surprise, the original revetments, put in by landowners long before Big Brother took over, emerged. However, no provision was made for ongoing maintenance and now that sludge is back and my ancient grazing fields flood.

The newer Wimpey estate to the west of the town has a major floodwater reservoir to accommodate peak flows, but still discharges into the Tame, prolonging the time the flood water stands on farmland, though without adding to peak flow.

I know that several farmers and households have managed to get through the maze of councils and environment bodies which now control their actions and hauled trees out of the river and done some bank reinstatement at their own expense for the benefit of the community.

There are solutions but they have a cost which needs to be borne by all who benefit and managed by locals with the knowledge and experience to do so.

Farmers do not need ill-informed criticism from councillors, but do need and have been trying to get for years the co-operation of all involved to find a solution to these worsening problems. It is happening in other areas not far from here as councillors should know.

Robert Campbell, Stokesley.

Profit over service

WHILST watching the North-East news this evening (Jan 12) I was struck, and a little concerned, by the item on free school meals being delivered in the North-East and their lack of quality.

This concern was reinforced by an item on Radio 4 where the assistant head of a school in Grimsby claimed that he was spending some of the school's money, and some of his own, to try and make said meals "more interesting".

He claimed that the company providing the meals had included just cheese sandwiches every day for 17 weeks. When he had queried this with them they had stated that they did it because vegetarians could eat them as well as everyone else.

This raises two issues. Firstly it confirms the lack of quality in these pack up lunches, and their value for money, appears very questionable, well beyond the North-East of England, and seems worthy of some careful scrutiny.

Secondly it is yet another example of where the wants, needs and desires of the vast majority (I would be very surprised if there was more than five per cent of children demanding vegetarian meals in Grimsby; but accept that I could be wrong) are sacrificed for the preferences of small minority groups.

The very antithesis of the democratic processes that we claim are the best way for a society to be managed. I do not believe that it would be too difficult to provide for the needs of the minority groups without depriving the vast majority of their preferred meal.

Perhaps the focus is too much on profit rather than service?

In the Grimsby case the argument falls down in any case because the vegan could not eat the cheese in any case.

Hopefully the media raising of the profile of this issue will help to raise standards. Parents however should actively ensure that their expectations are being met and not sacrificed, unnecessarily, for the wants of others.

John Hutchinson, Brompton on Swale.

Loutish customers

THE people of Hutton Rudby and surrounding area are privileged to have such an excellent village shop, managed and staffed by the most helpful people one could ever wish for.

However, there appears to be a minority of customers who fail to appreciate this by not conforming to the Covid rules, together with other instances of disrespect shown towards staff, on occasions using foul and abusive language, the upbringing of these ill-mannered people leaves a lot to be desired.

So to whom it may concern, there is no excuse for such antisocial behaviour, consider how offended you would feel were someone to speak to you or your family in a similar vein.

Trevor Mason, Swainby.

Solar farm

I AM disappointed to learn that Spectator supports burying hundreds of acres of rural North Yorkshire under slabs of plastic, glass and electrical infrastructure (D&S Times Spectator's Notes, Jan 15).

Maybe they agree with one proponent of the Skeeby development that the fields and hedgerows there "are hardly a thing of beauty"?

Despite calling them solar "farms" they are actually industrial installations.

They may not even benefit Yorkshire or the North-East. The large Easingwold site is owned by Warrington Borough Council. So definitely not in their backyard.

Robin Brown, Brompton on Swale.

Planning application

TO all residents of Richmond and surrounding villages. I’m sure you are all aware of the dreadful fire at the Harvest garage on Victoria Road in Richmond last August.

Richmondshire District Council has published a planning application on behalf of Harvest Energy to rebuild the site as a petrol station and Morrisons shop.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The fire at the fuel station in Richmond last yearThe fire at the fuel station in Richmond last year

There has been such a response to this application already that the consultation period has been extended until January 29. I would like to bring to your attention a few details of the application which are as follows:

  • 24/7 opening hours of the petrol station and shop which would provide the way to apply for 24/7 alcohol licence.
  • The new roofline will be much higher than the last one and will overshadow the adjacent buildings, robbing them of natural light.
  • There will be lorries and tankers delivering at all hours of the day and night causing disruption to the traffic flow and endangering the lives of pedestrians and school children negotiating the footpath in front of the forecourt.
  • Reduced visibility for traffic passing parked delivery vehicles.
  • Noise from vehicles will disturb the tranquillity of this residential area.
  • The new fascia is more suited to a motorway service station than a grade two listed conservation area. Other new builds in the area have been obliged to conform with existing buildings using local stone and sympathetic appearances.

This means that if a national company is allowed to ride roughshod over local planning protocols, there will be an opening for other applications to follow suit, causing a lowering of the standards of this attractive and very historic town of which we are so proud.

A copy of the planning application is available on the council’s website at and typing in the application ref. 20/00895/FULL.

Please feel free to study this and raise any objections to before January 29.

Jennifer Capewell, Richmond.

Political football

IN his letter "Policy failures" (D&S Times letters, Jan 15) Dr John R Gibbins raised several valid questions on the Government's policy failures in its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We all have a very high respect for the front line staff in the NHS but when politicians tell us that our NHS is world beating and we must “protect the NHS” they set themselves up as the villains in this saga.

Boris Johnson’s Government has made many serious policy mistakes but the responsibilities for operations are delegated down the line via the Department of Health, NHS England, NHS Supply Chain, the Care Quality Commission and the Clinical Commissioning Groups, organisations that made many mistakes that let the virus rip, they failed NHS staff and the public.

In reply to Dr Gibbins questions:

  • Did they identify the problem early enough to allow effective protection? Yes, In 2013 NHS England published The Operating Framework for Managing the Response to Pandemic Influenza. The publication sets out the objectives, preparedness roles and responsibilities within the NHS for handling a pandemic. It states: “NHS England is responsible for leading the mobilisation of the NHS in the event of an emergency or incident and for ensuring it has the capability for NHS command, control, communication and coordination and leadership of all providers of NHS funded care.”
  • Did it make the correct estimation of the problem? No, PPE stocks were too low, NHS Supply Chain were sourcing PPE from China rather than the UK. NHS England kept UK private sector testing labs out of early testing.
  • Did they act to limit the risk of infection? No, the elderly were ejected from hospitals into private sector care homes without testing. Nightingale hospitals were left empty when coronavirus patients were taken to ICUs to spread infection among the NHS staff and patients.
  • Did they protect key workers and those most at risk? No

By making the running of the NHS independent of Whitehall control with the 2012 Health and Social Care Act the Government tried to stop Labour using the NHS as a political football. It failed, deckchairs will be quietly shuffled and the NHS will remain beyond reproach, Labour supporters and the media will ensure it stays that way.

Peter G Tate, Bedale.


THANK YOU so much for featuring Bashar Al Hana in last week’s edition of our paper (D&S Times, Jan 15). It is an inspirational story both of the determination and talent of one public-spirited man and of the support given to him by his community in Darlington.

Mark White, Billingham.

Older drivers

I REFER to the letter from Thomas Ball “Driving dates” (D&S Times, Jan 8). Any statistic, including those produced by the government, will substantiate the fact that younger drivers cause the highest percentage of road accidents.

One survey I recently read stated that: “Drivers under the age of 25 years cause 85 per cent of all serious road accidents. Whilst young drivers may have better vehicle control and fast reactions. Their hazard and risk assessment is typically poor taking two seconds longer to react to hazardous situations than more experienced drivers."

My own 60 years of driving substantiates the above. Living in a small village with no facilities I have had to drive everywhere I needed to be, including many miles to work. I have had two accidents, both before I was 25-years-old.

Aged 17, I lost control of a motorbike through going too fast, fortunately no other persons were involved. The second was at 19 when, whilst talking to my four passengers, I overshot a junction and was hit by an oncoming vehicle, fortunately no one was injured. I was prosecuted, but was given a minimum fine due to the fact that the junction was poorly lit and marked. It was later altered.

I would be interested to know how many accidents Mr Ball has had during his driving career.

David Ward, Seamer, Middlesbrough.

Missing Hen Harrier

YET again we read reports that another tagged Hen Harrier has disappeared over a managed grouse moor, this time between Kirby Stephen and Ravenseat, and this is the second time this has happened in the same area.

Scotland has now introduced a law that grouse moors will lose their sporting licence if raptors are killed and this same law must be introduced in England.

It is not right that wildlife should suffer for the greed of the rich. NG Bailey stopped all shooting on their land and Harriers have returned to breed there.

CP Atkinson, Great Ayton.

Biscuit donor

WHILE volunteering in the car park at the vaccination centre in Northallerton on a bitterly cold afternoon, I assisted a lady bringing her mother for her injection.

The lady returned with a box of delicious chocolate and orange biscuits for the team, not just "any biscuits, but M&S biscuits".

Whoever she is, thank you for chocolate bliss and such thoughtfulness.

Alexe Roberts, Great Smeaton.