Unitary consultation

ROBERT JENRICK has announced an eight-week consultation period on two alternative, conflicting proposals to bring North Yorkshire under a unitary status – the so-called East/West split creating two unitaries, or the single North Yorkshire unitary.

He claims that he has always been clear that any restructuring of local government must be locally-led and will not involve top-down solutions from government.

However, this is not the case. He is not asking the residents of North Yorkshire whether they want to change to a unitary status. On the contrary, he is telling us we will be having a unitary system and asking which option is preferred by businesses, local services and residents.

Before any decision is made, residents should be presented with the business cases for both proposals – how much will it cost to transform to a unitary; how much will it save by operating as a unitary; what changes will there be for delivery of council services to residents and quite importantly, what will happen to the council taxes that residents pay?

Only when answers to these questions are on the table will residents be able to make an informed choice of whether the existing two-tier councils should be abolished and a unitary chosen instead.

Mr Jenrick is putting the cart before the horse and imposing a unitary authority upon us.

Cllr. Bryn Griffiths (Lib Dem), Stokesley.

Northallerton parking

WITH regard to the Northallerton High Street parking solutions proposed by William Barker (D&S Times Letters, Feb 19), I totally agree with continuing one-hour free parking in the High Street. Half an hour is far too short for shopping or attending to business matters.

Also why bother with an app for parking – the green button to press for a parking ticket is simple and adequate.

In addition, the scheme which suggests trees or planters for the main square in Northallerton could have problems, not least reduced parking spaces, and obstructing the May Fair which needs an act of Parliament to cancel it.

Also birds perching in the trees result in droppings (a health hazard), then in the autumn the leaves will blow all over the High Street, both will cause additional cleaning.

I hope the planners have considered these things.

Anne Smirthwaite, Thornton-le- Moor, Northallerton.

Town upgrade

IT seems the Northallerton town centre upgrade plans have already hit the buffers over an issue on which you would have thought there would be universal approval.

The area in front of the town hall is to be opened up with the laudable aim of being the attractive centrepiece of an increasingly vibrant bustling county town. Who could object to this area being massively enhanced by the planting of beautiful trees to be enjoyed by generations to come?

Well apparently the Showmen’s Guild seem to have convinced Hambleton District Council that what we really need is planters so these can be moved when the annual fair takes place (D&S Times, Feb 19).

Surely the district council’s priority should be the year-round enjoyment and welfare of the entire local community rather than the convenience of the few who run the fair for three or four days a year.

If the council are at all serious about upgrading the town and the high street then I would strongly urge both them and the Showmen’s Guild to reconsider as there must be alternative solutions to where fair rides can be placed in the town.

High streets are changing and the pandemic has accelerated huge shifts in the way people shop. This is increasingly online and in out of town shopping centres so our high street has to adapt but remain relevant and attractive.

It should be a place where people wish to linger with more and better food and drink choices, more green spaces leading to a more relaxing environment, more activities, flexible workspaces, and experience-focused retailers, for example.

All a long way off I suspect, but let’s at least show an initial statement of intent by not settling for second-rate planters.

Tim Piper, Northallerton.


I WISH to add some observations to the comments by John Hopkins in his letter 'Moving On' (D&S Times letters, Feb 19) regarding the correspondence from Trevor Nicholson (D&S Times letters, Feb 12).

Mr Hopkins comments that some of the language is unedifying. I agree.

Mr Nicholson's letters are an education in the populist new styles and language of demagoguery evolving in this era of social media.

We need to calm down the rhetoric, restore respectable forms of language and conversation, respect the demands of evidence and inference (logic).

What does the word "woke" mean? It was coined by American slaves to refer to authentic people, but the right have inverted it to mean exactly the opposite – anyone expressing any ideas contrary to their own.

If that is the case everyone is a "woke" when compared to someone else, making the term redundant – except as an insult. In fact, insulting decent people is a characteristic of his letter on "EU obstacles". The EU is "corrupt", references are "childish", problems identified are ignored while simplistic solutions are presented as "easy peasy".

The next play is avoiding the question. Instead of addressing the actual and evidenced problems of today presented by John Hopkins; the serious border problems that Michael Gove recognises and is seeking to solve right now with the EU; we are asked to think about rock bands touring in the 1960s, and trade relations pre-January 3, 1973.

Does it add to discussion and the art of policy analysis to call anyone assessing risks and dangers associated with policies those "who spat their dummies out"?

Is Yemen a sensible comparator of poverty in Yorkshire, as Mr Nicholson did in reply to my letter earlier on child poverty in Yorkshire? Isn't it more sensible to compare ourselves to other advanced industrial states if we want to know where we stand? Again are we to disqualify statisticians and analysts who have not visited the Yemen, from making researched assessments of social inequalities in Britain?

Mr Nicholson's operating model is to hurl insults at letter writers as a substitute for addressing the evidence and the arguments being provided in letters.

He needs to exercise some of that control that has now been repatriated.

Dr John R Gibbins, Sowerby.

Banking progress

OUR local Lib Dems seem to be going out of their way to be totally irrelevant or very least appear to be full signed-up members of the Flat Earth Society.

Their suggestion that the local MP should be "doing something" to stop HSBC Bank closing their branches in Northallerton and Richmond is just absurd. While he is a very talented young man by all accounts and in a very powerful Westminster role, I'm pretty sure he can't tell HSBC to maintain a branch which doesn't have enough customers to sustain it.

I don't think he should even if he could. The switch to online and telephone banking is speeding up and the current pandemic has played a big part in that. It's progress that some of us might not like but the increasing numbers of the people embracing it show that resisting it is like King Canute trying to hold back the tide.

I'm an HSBC customer and finally took the step to doing my banking on my home computer last April at the beginning of the pandemic when it became clear that a physical trip down to the Northallerton branch was something I should try to avoid because of my underlying health conditions.

Having made the switch with the very helpful and patient HSBC staff, I would not revert back. It is so quick and easy and I also feel my money is safer. No more carrying large sums of cash around.

I still receive one regular payment by cheque which I deposit at the Post Office in High Street. By directing that transaction to the Post Office I am helping to sustain a public service which I think is still valued by everyone and provides banking services that everyone can use – including those who feel digital banking is not for them.

Jane Saunders, Romanby, Northallerton.

Police defence

I SUGGEST Tony Robinson “Killjoy police” (D&S Times letters, Feb 19) is very out of touch with public feeling with regard to Covid prevention.

I have family and friends scared stiff to leave the house due to what they read in media and see on the news. They are desperate for anything to reduce the virus spread so they can meet family and friends, many unseen for a year.

To be as cynical as to suggest police are killjoys and targeting people having fun is nonsensical. There are plenty of other things to do, so police will only be responding to public complaints and concerns. Yes, that is the public, who police are answerable to and they are doing what the vast majority want them to do in stopping any spread of the virus. Based on personal experience, the majority I have seen out and about when I have to do my shop have given up completely with any regard for other people, so we need someone to give stern reminders. Cynical public? I know very different.

Phil Wright, Bedale.

Planning chasm

THE more I read my favourite newspaper the D&S Times the more I have become aware of the discord that exists between local planning authorities and communities.

It is my view that planning authorities have lost sight of entertaining or acting upon the legitimate concerns of their local communities as objectors.

Objections frequently raised are loss of productive farm land, loss of important hedgerows, loss of wildlife, lack of affordable housing, removal of healthy trees and large swathes of countryside being lost to development forever.

This chasm needs to be addressed urgently, however this will not be easy as some authorities have been “born again” or absorbed into their scriptures of policy and procedures and the grey areas of planning laws which are open to self-serving interpretation and manipulation.

Planning authorities seem able to appease developers' wishes and wangle through planning applications on the premise of building some piece-meal "affordable homes" – that is if you can afford them!

Developers are only too keen to publicly display their wares with in your face hoardings distracting motorists and advertising their "luxury houses" with four/five bedrooms, all en-suite, two bathrooms and endless shower rooms and garage space all for between £400,000 and £500,000. Care should be taken, as your luxury sustainable home could be a mass produced off the shelf wooden framed structure with a limited lifespan.

Some planning authorities base their evidence for housing saturation upon what appears to be spurious mathematics mingled with elements of fortune telling. Even Merlin would have difficulty in determining housing needs for some 20/30 years down the line!

So what could be a better option? In my opinion, we need to devolve certain planning powers and decision making to a lower tier of government who represent their local communities, and who are fully knowledgeable of the surrounding local environment and its housing needs.

However that said it may be easier to change the mindset of Donald Trump!

Peter Ellerton, Darlington.

Rewriting history

WHEN considering the suggested removal of Captain Cook’s monument(s) I would advise the decision makers to reflect upon George Orwell’s musings in Animal Farm.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. .....History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

To suggest statues, and other historic symbols, should remain, to assist learning from history opens the door to allegations of racism – an offence for which there appears to be no defence allowed. This is wrong. It is perfectly possible to hold two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accept them both.

I believe that the principles of fairness and equality of opportunity, for all, am appealing to all reasonable people in this multicultural world to which our history has led us. Unfortunately there are more extreme factions and ideas that are difficult to support.

A recent post suggesting that the people of Hawaii did a "good thing" in killing Captain Cook for trying to move into their land merely gives succour to the extremists who think the Italians should sink the boat loads of Africans seeking to move into Europe. Neither are worthy of praise.

A better understanding of black history, like all other history, may well be long overdue. We will find that, just like all history, it is full of the good, the bad and the appalling.

At school I was taught more about African history than I was ever taught about Asia, South America or about the indigenous peoples of North America.

I was taught that slavery was an abomination and that the British Empire – like virtually every other empire that had ever existed before it – had an appalling record in respect of slavery. However; I was also taught that had we not had such a strong worldwide empire we would not have been able to play the leading role we did in ending that abomination. An historical fact we hear little mention of.

Our challenge is to find a new way based upon those concepts of fairness and equality of opportunity for all the people, not just black and white. Arguments over statues are a distraction and a barrier to progress on a much greater issue.

John Hutchinson BA (Ed&T), Brompton on Swale.