The time is now

I WAS heartened to read (D&S Times, Sept 17), about the new One Planet group in Northallerton and the churches that have declared a climate and environmental emergency. It is commendable that they are showing the way and encouraging us to join them to take action as a community.

Faced with the enormity of the climate crisis and the weight of the scientific evidence it is hard sometimes to remain optimistic about our precious world; though it is more important than ever now for us all to show up for our planet before it is too late.

The time is now and it is up to all of us to focus on the actions we can take and the positive benefits that are possible from tackling the crisis – from high skilled jobs in renewable energy, to improvements to biodiversity, more trees and local food, reduced air pollution and health benefits of active travel.

Declaring a climate emergency is important because of the message it sends out that it is an emergency and we are all in it together.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could persuade our local councils to join in and do the same? This would add even more weight and visibility to their plans to meet carbon reduction targets in line with the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s ambition to be the UK’s first carbon negative region – carbon neutral by 2034 and carbon negative by 2040.

From my involvement with the Homegrown Food Festival, I know there are so many people in Northallerton and the surrounding villages who care passionately about our precious earth and are doing all sorts of amazing things already – as individuals or groups; by living more sustainably, supporting refill shops, reducing plastic, growing their own vegetables, recycling and composting – so couldn't we make even more change if we added our efforts together?

For the festival in 2019 we had so much love and support for our efforts to "get drastic with plastic" and we hope to be even more environmentally friendly when we return next year.

Why not come along to the free drop-in event in the Town Hall on Saturday, October 16, you can find One Northallerton One Planet on Facebook and more about the Climate Coalition at

Sally Anderson, Chair – Northallerton Homegrown Food Festival.

Safe cycling

IN response to your headline "Council is urged to stem escalating road conflicts" (D&S Times, Sept 24), I write to give the experience of Leyburn Cycling, a group which organises leisure rides of manageable size split up by the abilities of the participants.

We ride the quiet roads around Leyburn and, I am pleased to say, the vast majority of motorists are courteous and mindful of our safety and drive accordingly.

For our part, we are mindful of motorists' convenience. We ride with gaps to facilitate overtaking and sometimes, on particularly narrow lanes, stop to let vehicles past. We are all motorists as well as cyclists.

I hope other cycling groups instil a similar culture. We feel ourselves lucky to have the quiet lanes and minor roads round here to enjoy riding. As far as we can, we avoid the A roads but, with the huge growth of cycling, there is a real need for cycle paths parallel with main roads.

In this low carbon-aiming world, cycling needs to be encouraged.

In Holland, a country with a similar climate, it is the way many people get about from day to day including work and shopping. The road infrastructure in UK does not encourage this with trips into towns perceived as dangerous.

Gerald Hodgson, Spennithorne, Leyburn.

Insect identity

DEREK WHITING'S photograph of an insect (D&S Times, Sept 17) is that of an aptly-named Shield Bug, a sap-sucking true bug of the Order Hemiptera.

Unfortunately, the photograph in my copy of the D&S doesn't show the insect's body colours, but the very straight anterior edge of the "shield" suggest that it might be a Forest Shield Bug. However, this species, Pentatoma rufipes, usually has, as the specific name implies, red legs, whereas those in the photograph appear to be green.

Now that Mr Whiting knows that his insect is a shield bug, he should be able to identify it further from various natural history websites or reference books and I look forward to hearing the results of his investigations.

Dr Michael Waldman, Worton, Leyburn.

Park funding

YOUR September 24 edition reports that the Yorkshire National Park Authority is having to limit the resources it can devote to building conservation, visitor centres and public transport services because of continuing cuts in Government spending – “National park reviews its priorities after funding cut”.

Apparently the authority suffered a 40 per cent cut in core funding in the six years to 2015 with further reductions subsequently and more anticipated in the next financial year.

Unless external funding is found, only “the minimum necessary to meet legal duties” in these areas will be done.

Our National Parks are a vital part of the conservation of our countryside for this and future generations. They are the crown jewels of our rural heritage and play an increasingly important part in accommodating the demand for tourism, for “staycations”, post pandemic, whilst seeking a balance between the pressure of visitor numbers and safeguarding the qualities that make them unique.

The Government’s reductions in grant aid, year on year, to National Parks, and to local authorities in general, in the mindless pursuit of “austerity”, is doing untold damage to our natural and built heritage.

The state of the public realm in our towns and villages is visibly deteriorating year on year in a way not seen in any other European country. All this from the so-called “Conservative” party. What in heavens name are they trying to achieve? More worryingly, do they even care?

Robin Brooks, Barningham, Richmond.

Covid testing

I HAVE recently returned from a holiday in Portugal, and I would like to draw your readers' attention to the bureaucracy associated with Covid testing in England.

In total I completed three tests, one before departing the UK, one on my return and one before leaving Portugal. The two UK tests were booked online and the kits arrived in the post; both tests were self-administered and had to be either delivered to a drop box at Scotch Corner (two round trip of 30 miles each) or sent by next day delivery courier at my expense.

The results were delivered electronically in about 18 hours. The whole thing was a duplicated, time consuming exercise with too many opportunities for something to fail.

Compare this to the test in Portugal. It too was booked online, conducted at a local pharmacy (walking distance) by a health practitioner, the results were delivered, also electronically, within six hours and I was assured that if there was a problem all I had to do was contact the pharmacy. It could not have been an easier or more reassuring process than the UK tests; it was also significantly cheaper.

My experience does however beg the question as to what is the Covid testing centre in Northallerton for? I pass it several times a week and it never seems to have any customers; it was almost the same situation when I volunteered as a marshal for the Covid vaccine centre set up in the adjacent Forum. Why can this expensive Covid white elephant not be used to test people going abroad, or as and when needed for whatever reason, or is it all too difficult to recoup/cover some of its costs by selling tests?

Robert Carter, Brompton, Northallerton.

Hoorah the fair

A FORTNIGHT ago the fair came to town, which town? Stokesley.

This annual event takes place in the centre of the town where we all enjoy the atmosphere that only a fair held in an urban setting can create.

I was disappointed by your correspondent's criticism levied at the town council, “Fair location” (D&S Times letters, Sept 17).

As a resident living in the centre of Stokesley I look forward to the arrival of the fair in its present location.

A number of businesses and enterprises enjoy an increase in trade from the fairground employees.

So, town council, please ensure that the fair in its present location remains for future generations to enjoy.

Sylvia Hackney, Stokesley.

Public transport

ANXIETY about fuel supplies has nudged some motorists into considering using buses and trains for at least some of their journeys.

All local authorities are now preparing Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs), to present to the government at the end of this month. Future funding for bus services may depend on the clarity, fore-sightedness and validity of their proposed plans.

Whether or not you already use public transport, or are a committed motorist, now is the time to tell your local and county councillors (and/or this newspaper) what you think is needed. How might more people be encouraged to use public transport in future? Is it convenience and connections? Better service times? Rising motoring costs? Health problems (including increasing frailty and eyesight problems)? Perhaps it is fear of Covid-infection? Or worry about air pollution, climate change and wider environmental concerns?

I hope many readers will take this timely opportunity to make positive suggestions for improving public transport in our area.

Ruth Annison, Askrigg, Leyburn.

Energy costs

IT is now well known that we will have record high gas bills this winter due to global shortages and when the high gas bills pass through the letter box, give a thought for the anti-fracking and extinction rebellion activists.

They will no doubt be screaming hysterically that fracking causes earthquakes, water and air pollution. Sanctimonious opinions based on events in the USA 60 years ago when there was a stampede for fracking and it was not regulated.

Today we have the Oil and Gas Authority in conjunction with the HSE, issuing strict regulations for all fracking activities including exploration, production and reinstatement. Regulations cover protection of ground water (aquifers), treatment of drilling waste water, flared gas and radioactive material.

Based on current information, by 2030, 70 per cent of UK gas will be imported from countries such as Norway, Russia and liquefied gas from Qatar, Nigeria and Algeria and, considering the political instability of some of these countries, only a fool would have confidence in our long term gas supplies.

Therefore, the UK should be exploiting every cubic inch of shale gas possible to heat our homes and supply our energy-consuming industries because it is estimated that the UK has only 25 years of gas reserves.

One of the latest trends being bandied about by the "save the planet" crowd is the use of heat-pumps to replace fossil fuel boilers.

Heat pump technology is not rocket science and has been around for several decades. Basically, the simplest form is the air sourced heat pump which moves heat between two heat exchangers using a refrigeration cycle.

It is not the purpose of this letter to give a lesson in thermodynamics but to explain heat pumps do not come cheap. The typical installation cost is currently between £9,000 and £11,000, which involves upgrading to larger radiators or under floor heating. Also, heat pumps consume electricity to drive fans and a refrigerant compressor. So, the savings on gas consumption minus cost of electricity consumption to drive the heat pump is very small.

In other words to receive a return on your investment in a heat pump you will currently need to be a six-year-old home owner.

So this Christmas when you are faced with the decision to pay the sky high gas bill and skimp on the kids' Christmas presents, spare a thought for the anti-fracking fanatics.

Trevor Nicholson, Leeming.