Free car parking

READING your front page headline “Dismay at end date for free parking extension (D&S Times, Apr 2), I cannot believe the stupidity, hubris and lack of understanding of how retail works by the local councils. Sorry for the lack of diplomacy but they are just not working in the real world or is there a hidden agenda?

The councils seem to be applying a "death by a thousand cuts" to Northallerton High Street. Whilst constantly declaring that they are wanting to support the traders in the town, at every turn they do what they can to undermine them.

The town centre needs parking to bring people – they bring the money for the shops – not bus and cycle lanes, and people need more time than a measly 30 minutes. You can't get to the bank and back in that time, never mind anything else; so not keeping the extension to one hour is not just troubling but counterproductive.

Currently the High Street is being dug up to provide, at a cost of £2.75m, a new "open community space" (it was done only a few years ago). This will reduce the parking spaces and disabled access further. Is the hidden agenda:

1. To drive people away from the High Street to Hambleton District Council's Treadmills development? We will have to wait to see how that turns out.

2. To close the High Street? In the 40 years I have lived here they have tried four times with various dubious "trial periods" to close it. Each time has been an unmitigated disaster, as the town was clogged with traffic due to there being no bypass or a route around Low Gates crossing, but they persist with councillors obsessed with "the clutter of cars and traffic". Sorry, that's what a bright thriving shopping centre is about, not some dull windswept empty place devoid of bustle and people spending money, keeping the shops open and encouraging new ones.

We are told "analysis of one hour parking does not offer a basis for it to be permanent". How do they come by these figures when the High Street is closed two days a week? The figures seem dubious at best.

When surrounding areas are giving free parking with sensible limits all around us it seems to be stubborn, short-sighted and stupid to persist with charges here.

Andrew Reid, Northallerton.

Unitary authority

I’D be the first to admit that the reorganisation of local government is perhaps the last thing on people's mind in these unusual and hopefully improving times.

However the fact remains that despite representations having been made that this is certainly not the right time for the Government to be looking at reorganising the local government structure in the North Yorkshire area, the government has pressed on regardless.

As a town councillor and an independent councillor on Hambleton District Council (HDC), I would urge all residents in the area to respond to the Government's consultation on this matter before the deadline of Monday, April 19.

A link to the consultation can be found at:

I firmly believe that the current structure of Hambleton District Council is the best to serve its residents and will properly retain decision making at a local level.

Although North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has been proactive in advocating a new unitary authority to be introduced, over 300 businesses have responded to the HDC leadership indicating that they consider that the NYCC proposals are not the correct structure for local government in Hambleton.

Hambleton District Council is a very proactive authority – proven by such initiatives as the Treadmills development, its excellent leisure centres and the forthcoming new crematorium, with housing targets being exceeded year on year including affordable housing.

Hambleton has the third lowest council tax in England and is financially resilient. Any reorganisation will mean that council tax payers will incur significantly higher council tax payments. If the council is to be merged into a county-wide new authority, on the law of averages local council tax rates will inevitably increase by around £180 per year for a Band D property.

Last week's edition of this newspaper headlined the remarkable decision of NYCC not to increase the free parking facility in Northallerton High Street. This decision reveals a very clear indication as to how our towns and villages will in the future be treated by a unitary authority based on the current county council.

Your local market towns and villages will loose out to Scarborough, Harrogate and York or the poorer performing district councils.

Whatever is decided after this current consultation will not only affect residents living today but also their children and grandchildren.

So please take part in the consultation and if you think that HDC does a good job, please say so.

Paul Atkin, Northallerton town and Hambleton District Council independent councillor.

Council reforms

THE coronavirus crisis has been and continues to be traumatic for individuals, families, communities and countries across the world. It is hard to think of little else when coronavirus so dominates our lives. Yet the Government has chosen this time to force far-reaching changes in vital local services for which there is no popular demand.

Thirsk & Malton Labour Party are opposed to the piecemeal, haphazard reorganisation of local government. The pattern of local government across England is now a complete mess. Unitary councils range in size from Rutland with 38,000 people to Birmingham with over a million.

Cambridgeshire, with a population about 650,000, has an elected mayor, a combined authority, a county council, a unitary council and five district councils.

Northamptonshire, with about 100,000 more people, is to be governed by just two unitary councils. The various combined authorities have varying powers and responsibilities. Citizens should not have to use search engines and exhaustive research to find out who is responsible for what.

What is the Government’s view on this nation-wide hotch potch? No one knows – it promised to publish its views in a White Paper that has been delayed time and time again.

Funding has a major impact quality and performance of local government. For every £1 of national financial support for local services in 2015 there was just 23 pence in 2020.

We are not opposed to change – a system designed half a century ago and tinkered with by successive governments needs to be reviewed. But review and reform should be comprehensive, properly considered, involve citizens, and command public support.

J Wells, Kirkbymoorside.

Cheap shed

MANY years ago when my father ran out of space for lambing sheds and shelter for cattle he would call at the scrap yard down the road and buy some old tin sheets, nail them to a frame and paint them black.

You can imagine my surprise when passing the new extension to the Health Centre in Firby Road, Bedale, to see that the architects and local authorities, with a budget of £2.7m, have achieved the same result as my father, quick, practical and a total eyesore, only much bigger and at 100,000 times the cost.

Brian Lancaster, Bedale.

Councillor action

WITH reference to Councillor Griffiths' letter "Responsibilities" (D&S Times letters, Mar 26), his response is rather alarming.

He was replying to my letter “Councillor duty” (D&S Times, Mar 19) that stated he and Councillor Wake did nothing to protect the residents of Stokesley when the police failed to address the issue of illegal visits by a large quantity of visitors throughout December 2020. He states "councillors are not responsible for the police actions or lack of them". I would call this a spectacular own goal.

How can a councillor witness illegal activities on a large scale daily for four weeks and do nothing? At this time many residents were in their homes too frightened of the risks associated with going out. If the police failed to respond to a serious issue it is normal for councillors to take action to protect the residents. Councillor Griffiths should have raised this matter urgently with the chief constable and police, fire and crime commissioner.

Councillors are elected to represent residents and be their voice and protect them as far as reasonably practicable and address their issues. Why else would we vote?

Saltburn had a similar problem but dedicated and conscientious Saltburn councillor Philip Thomson acted and contacted the police to ensure there was a greater police presence in the town to take action. As he says he is focused on what he is here for, which is serving the community and doing what he believes is the right thing to do.

The issue I raised has now been answered – councillors have no responsibility for police issues. Stokesley residents need to be aware that if they have an ongoing issue with speeding, anti-social behaviour, theft or other they must only contact the police, not councillors as they will not help. For proof refer to Stokesley Town Council minutes of March 10, 2020 "Matters for Discussion" items 2d and 2f.

Dave Peirson, Stokesley.

Right to protest

I AM shocked that Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake voted for changes in the law which would have made peaceful protest against fracking in Ryedale impossible.

People from all walks of life turned out in thousands in Malton in 2015 to demonstrate their opposition to fracking.

The effectiveness of this demonstration laid the foundation for the sustained campaign of opposition to fracking in Ryedale which hampered the development of fracking at the Kirby Misperton site and ultimately led to the withdrawal of the developer.

No fracking is now taking place in Ryedale and although the licences still exist, Ryedale is safe from fracking for the time being. Demonstrations like this took part around the country and it is primarily because of them that there is currently no fracking anywhere in the UK.

Under Priti Patel’s proposed new law, to go on a demonstration like this would risk a £2,500 fine and/or up to ten years in prison because in being effective it was also both noisy and inconvenient. This threat would have deterred most people and fracking would probably now be ongoing.

The Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill is a rag bag of measures. It includes welcome increased protection to emergency service workers and to some at-risk groups although it fails to address the issue of violence against women and girls.

However, bundling erosion of freedom to protest with uncontroversial protections of individuals is devious and dishonest.

Will Mr Hollinrake change his mind and vote to protect the freedom of his constituents to protest effectively against future threats such as fracking when the Bill comes back to the House of Commons?

Mick Johnston, Ebberston, Ryedale.

GP access

IN these strange times of Covid and our changing world, one of the things that I found strange, was the NHS and our government, or more to the point, our GP surgeries.

The fact they closed down more or less for long periods during the Covid crisis, and you could get telephone consultations at best “if you were lucky”.

At the same time our wonderful doctors, nurses and everyone working in hospitals under great stress continued to work non-stop.

Some of the GPs making names for themselves on TV – would it not have been possible for these doctors to have gone into hospitals and given a hand?

R Challener, Redcar.

Good old days

I SOMETIMES think I live in a foreign country because of the things some people say, such as "using my app" or "streaming on the TV" or "it was on iPlayer" – they're all a mystery to me.

Bring back the old days for me.

GO Wright, Sadberge.