Solar farm plan

I REFER to your report on the proposed solar farm at Scruton (D&S Times, Jan 22) and the comments made by the parish representatives. I would be surprised if all the residents of Scruton were so opposed to the proposals and indeed some may have solar panels on their roof.

What I am sure of is that all the people in Scruton will require a good supply of electricity which has to be generated somewhere. It seems that the parish representatives believe that it can be anywhere but not at Scruton, even if it is only a few miles away. This is not a Hinkley Point.

Perhaps the parish councillors should be looking for conditions. Solar panels are not very high and could be easily screened by a belt of small trees and bushes around the perimeter of the development which would help with the government's proposed tree planting proposals, create a haven for wildlife, which is probably sadly lacking on the land in question and could include a track or footpath through the perimeter screen for people to exercise. What's not to like about it?

As to the loss of agricultural land (which need not be lost for ever) – it is minute compared to all the land taken by roads and housing and any loss of food could be easily made up by reducing the amount of food waste. But that is another issue which needs to be addressed.

David Law, Melmerby

Petrol station

IT is good to know that the burnt-out filling station here in Richmond is to be rebuilt, but I am beginning to wonder just how much research Harvest Energy has done into the needs and movements of the local population.

I have lived on Reeth Road for almost ten years and can confidently say that the amount of traffic along the road after about 8:30pm is negligible. To contemplate opening the facility 24/7 indicates how poorly they have done their homework.

Richmond is a small market town and such an ostentatious development is quite out of keeping.

I trust that Richmondshire District Planning Department will turn down this application in its present form.

Daphne Clarke, Richmond.

Bank closures

HSBC Bank’s withdrawal from Richmond and Northallerton, as described in Alexa Fox’s report (D&S Times, Jan 22), is of great concern. If followed by other banks, as happened in Stokesley and numerous other towns, this will make life harder for those living and running businesses nearby.

Surely this damage, in the midst of the devastation of the Covid crisis may be prevented? If Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is unable or unwilling to take sufficient action to prevent this loss then his competence and/or motivation may be questioned. Is this another example of the creative destruction which he appears to champion?

Mark Harrison, Swainby.

Last branches

MANY Richmond residents will be unhappy about the planned closure of yet another bank branch in Richmond, leaving only one major bank with a branch in the town (D&S Times, Jan 22). Residents who have moved accounts from the Yorkshire Bank or NatWest to HSBC may feel that last branch is now vulnerable.

Both Richmond and Northallerton are in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s constituency but I have seen no sign that he is at all concerned about the impact on our towns, their people and their businesses.

I have a suggestion for him, that could be part of his budget speech in March. Where there is only one major bank branch in a town it should be eligible for 50 per cent business rate relief. District or other relevant councils should be given the power to give a greater discount for banks that operate in the interests of the local community, by for example, opening for at least 15 hours a week, including an evening or a Saturday morning.

Business rate relief [at around £10,000+] would not work a financial miracle but it would signal Government support for small towns and tip the balance where banks are considering closure.

This is your chance Mr Sunak, to support your constituency, with a Last Bank in Town Act.

John Harris, Liberal Democrat candidate for Richmond (Yorks) in the 2015 General Election, Richmond

Poverty figures

FOLLOWING on from recent letters in the local press about Kevin Hollinrake’s regrettable comments regarding child poverty, I emailed him to ask if he could give me the numbers of children growing up in poverty in the Thirsk and Malton constituency for the five years between 2014 and 2019. The reason for my interest resulted from Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 where Boris Johnson claimed that 400,000 children had been "lifted" out of poverty by the Conservative Government.

He has made this claim before, despite the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England having stated that this was not true.

Supporting the Children’s Commissioner’s analysis, the data from End Child Poverty show not a decrease, but an increase in the number of children in poverty during the time in question in Thirsk and Malton.

When Kevin Hollinrake became our MP in 2015, 22.7 per cent of children were classed as living in poverty, by 2019 the figure was 25.7 per cent; that is, one in four children. There has also been a large increase (43 per cent) in children eligible for free school meals, and of food bank usage locally. I understand that applications for emergency food parcels from the Thirsk Community Works (The Clock) have doubled during Mr Hollinrake’s tenure as our MP.

Just how these local figures square with the Prime Minister’s claim that child poverty has reduced nationally has not been explained by Mr Hollinrake.

Alison Cashmore, Thornton le Dale, Pickering.

Hungry children

IN 2012 the US Attorney General announced an $18m settlement with Compass Group USA for improperly overcharging New York schools for the supply of food.

Why should this interest your readers, you may ask? Well this is the same Compass Group that owns Chartwells, the UK company that recently provided the pathetic and shameful school meal food parcels for primary school children.

The same Compass Group whose chairperson until he stepped down on December 1, 2020 was a Conservative Party donor.

The cronyism that drove the government procurement of Covid-19 PPE clearly extends far and wide.

Once again it has taken Marcus Rashford and a group of celebrity chefs and campaigners to call for a review of the Government’s free school meals policy. They called for a strategy to help end child food poverty before the summer holidays.

A Downing Street spokesperson stated that "the Prime Minister has been clear that no child will ever go hungry as a result of the pandemic".

The mendacity in this statement is chilling, as if child food poverty is perfectly acceptable in normal times. A far more worthy objective would be to ensure that no child will ever go hungry. Full stop.

Cllr Philip Wicks, (Richmondshire Together), Richmondshire District Council.

Vaccine experience

THIS morning (Jan 8) I attended for my first injection for the wretched coronavirus and I wanted your readers to know what an incredible experience it was.

My appointment was for 10.40am. I arrived about five minutes early and was passed through a series of yellow-jacketed volunteers upstairs at Tennants Auction Centre in Leyburn.

There were about five “pods” operating and I was seen and received the injection (painlessly!) within five to six minutes and then I had to wait for 15 minutes before leaving the building so it was a very swift exercise and I would like to put on record my appreciation of the way the whole process was handled.

Whoever organised this process, deserves our thanks for the way we were processed through what could, for some, be a very nervous experience.

I was originally disappointed not to be able to visit a centre nearer to my home in East Cowton, but now I am so pleased that I attended the one in Leyburn.

Thank you Leyburn Medical Practice, Tennants and all the professionals and volunteers for handling this process so professionally.

Gloria Rawle, East Cowton.

Erratic supplies

THE Prime Minister repeatedly boasts about the amount of vaccine produced for the UK market. He has good cause to do, it has been a magnificent effort.

What he repeatedly avoids is addressing the miserable effort in its distribution. Distribution to the many centres should reflect, with reasonably accuracy, the number of patients at a centre who are eligible.

A month ago, friends in Oxfordshire told us they had had already their vaccinations. They are under 80.

Contrast that with Richmondshire where, at the time of writing, a lot of the over 80s have not been dealt with, let alone the under 80s started.

This adverse comparison is not uncommon. We have a friend in Hertfordshire where the local vaccine centre is even open on Sundays. There was a GP in Kirkby Lonsdale, hardly a metropolitan area, who proudly said they had cleared the over 80s some time ago, and were well into the under 80s.

The Prime Minister has congratulated centres elsewhere in Cumbria for their expedition in jabbing those entitled. There was no question of there being no supplies. There was the announcement last week that more than 700,000 patients had been injected in the North-East.

The centre for Richmondshire is Tennants at Leyburn. It is an excellent choice, and, so far as they have been able to attend to their patients, the medical and ancillary staff have shown themselves to be superb.

Everyone who has been there sings their praises. The problem is that a good deal of the time there is no vaccine available to jab patients, and it is closed. Moreover, supplies are so erratic, it is difficult to plan ahead.

My understanding is that local managers have tried hard to correct this dire and inequitable situation, but with no real success.

I don’t think that the people of Richmondshire would look to some special, favourable treatment, but are we not entitled to fair treatment?

Let us remember that the later we get the first jab, the later still we get the second one. Why should we be prejudiced so disproportionately?

Mervyn Wilmington, Harmby, Leyburn.

More hilarity please

LEVITY has been in short supply of late. The effects of Covid-19, and the lockdowns, have led to grim living.

So I wish to thank the leader of Richmondshire District Council, Cllr Angie Dale for providing so much hilarity over her "we must all pull together" missive sent from her holiday in the Maldives.

This has raised smiles with all I have spoken with; a local politician’s fall from grace for such a stunning lack of awareness could not have caused more humour; the tight-lipped run for cover by council officials and her political friends has been priceless.

So those opponents calling for her to resign should stop their carping. Let her carry on.

We wish for other instalments. A rallying call to put the running of half of North Yorkshire into her hands perhaps, or an above-inflation rise in council tax to help us out of the deprivations we have all (well almost all) have suffered?

Richard Wells, East Witton, Leyburn.

Cllr defence

I AM not a supporter of any politician or any councillor. None of them work in the manner of a professional private company, and they follow their own rules, so I would like to comment on your article about Councillor Angie Dale (D&S Times, Jan 15) which shows the sniping of councillors within Richmondshire District Council.

Councillors like everyone else are allowed to have a holiday, even one overseas, and holidays are often booked perhaps a year in advance when times were different.

I ask those that are critical of Cllr Dale (who followed the rules of the time), is it correct or not that had Cllr Dale cancelled her holiday she would have lost all the money she had paid? Would those critical of her have come to an arrangement where they paid a proportion of her losses? I suggest not.

The presence of Covid-19 is not the fault of anyone, it is here and we have to deal with it. Boris Johnson imposed a lockdown in March 2020. During the lockdown the PM told us that lifting of the lockdown rules had to be done carefully.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, warned that: “We are in a very dangerous moment with easing the lockdown”, but instead of following the science the PM urged us to go back to work, and then we had “Eat out to help out”, all to stimulate the economy.

As a result the virus spread and today more than 1,000 people are dying of Covid-19 every day. The UK has more deaths per 100,000 than any country in Europe, that is an absolute disgrace. It is the legacy of how our government and our Prime Minister dealt with the virus.

We desperately need people in politics who can discuss and debate, and who have experience in life. Not people whose only experience is debating in Eton school.

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham.

Car park closure

HAMBLETON DISTRICT COUNCIL is intending to close the car park at Thirsk and Sowerby Leisure Centre from February until September, during refurbishment of the swimming baths etc.

This will cause significant inconvenience to users of the Flatts Fields. There is no credible, convenient alternative car park.

Closure of the whole car park for seven months cannot reasonably be justified on health and safety grounds (the usual council reason for being unreasonable) or even the needs of the contractors involved.

It appears that, as usual the council is taking the easy (for them) way out, causing the maximum nuisance to council tax payers and avoiding having to apply common sense.

Chris Wright, Thirsk.

Brexit consequences

THE Department for International Trade is now advising firms to open up a branch of their business in Europe, in order to sell their goods.

It is now clear that Brexit was not about winning back control from the EU – it was needing to invest in it – to survive.

Baroness Angela Harris, Richmond.