Planning debacle

AFTER reading the article “Garden centre and hotel plans set for green light” (D&S Times, Oct 1) which stated that planners were set to approve the development scheme by Sam Turner’s to build a garden centre and hotel on a site which currently gives breath taking views, my husband and I attended the planning meeting.

What a dismal display of decision making was on show.

The objectors were not a co-ordinated group of militant residents, rather a group of individuals who each spoke eloquently and with conviction about issues of concern. Amongst these were noise, flooding risk, road safety, children’s health and loss of the vibrant town centre.

It was evidently clear the councillors were ill-prepared and arrogant. A poor presentation meant it was difficult to see the plans on screen, when a resident helpfully approached a councillor with a paper copy of the plan so that the point could be clear he was threaten with expulsion, fair enough one might think.

The following comment from another councillor was not. "You’ve done yourself no favours by approaching the councillor at the table." A clear threat she was now going to vote against.

The threats did not stop there with one councillor pointedly staring at the local residents declaring, be quite clear something will be built on this land, if not this development then another, would you rather have housing?

When the supporters of the scheme spoke, a councillor commented how great it was to know that you’re named after your grandfather, wonderful fellow, and I’ve had an excellent time staying in these hotels in Northumberland and Lake District. I was speechless!

I had no idea this was how planning worked. No listening to the facts and concerns here. Two councillors had missed the previous meeting so weren’t clued up on the issues, the Green Party councillor seemed only concerned about the electric recharging points.

An objector delivered a one liner – is this land brown site or green site? A collective laugh and groan from the other councillors, a fudge and fumble from the officers, a reluctant answer, green site.

It was a depressing example of how the high profile issues facing us, mental health and wellbeing, environmental and demise of the high street, are easily dismissed by those that should represent us. In one fell swoop this planning committee raised all these issues in our community to unacceptable levels. Breathtakingly depressing.

Frances Stone, Harmby.

Lego bins

WILLIAM HAGUE wrote an article in The Times recently, suggesting that we would benefit from our lives being run by "local leadership" rather than the government.

If he came to Richmondshire, his old constituency, he would feel the wrath of many voters whose villages have received hideous litter bins, totally unsuitable for the location.

Presumably it’s the "local leadership" who decided to do this.

The bins look like Lego constructions and have been put on village greens or verges without any consultation or warning.

Luckily they haven’t been fixed to the ground so it will be quite easy for them to be removed. Let’s hope that happens soon.

Sylvia Crookes, Bainbridge, Wensleydale.

Fuel oil leak

FOR the past three weeks, a leak of fuel oil has been polluting Spennithorne Beck, which drains into the River Ure. The oil is most likely central heating oil, leaking from a domestic tank, although it is possible that it could be diesel.

Numerous attempts have been made, by individual residents and by the chairman of the Parish Meeting, to have the leak investigated by the appropriate agency.

Alas, all our telephone calls to both Richmondshire District Council and the Environment Agency have been recorded, only to be ignored.

No representative of either organisation has been observed to visit the village in connection with the leak.

We believe the oil is leaking into the beck from a land-drain a short distance outside the village centre. From there the beck passes (unfenced) through fields of livestock, and through a section of water fenced off (at the request some time ago of the Environment Agency) to protect wildlife, including the salmon which are known to frequent the lower reach of the beck. The polluted water then flows into the Ure.

Although it has been possible for residents to discover the point at which the oil spills into the beck, it is obviously beyond our resources to carry out a more extensive operation to locate the source of the leak and to stop it up.

We are frustrated and exasperated by the apparent unwillingness of the agencies concerned to address an issue which has potentially serious consequences for livestock, aquatic life, and the wider environment.

Michael Gaines, Spennithorne.

Verge mowing

RECENTLY Highways England have been mowing verges on the A66 from Scotch Corner to Penrith. Why, when the grass there was very short?

To my knowledge verges were only cut where motorists sight was impaired.

In my opinion this is an absolute cash cow – being paid for an operation that is not necessary, a waste of public money.

During October, they will be back to carry out the same operation. Why, when the grass verges do not grow?

Last October they mowed the grass right up to hedges, destroying an important wildlife habitat.

All top naturalists have pointed out that verges are a magnet of flora and fauna, attracting small mammals and birds throughout the year. Among the birdlife, kestrels and other species rely upon verges to hunt for prey during winter.

So why should Highways England be allowed to destroy one of the most important habitats all over the UK?

I have offered to meet the ecologists, but it has not been taken up. To add to my concerns areas were mowed right up to the wetlands containing threatened amphibians.

These operations should be halted immediately.

Dave Moore, Hutton Magna, Richmond.

HSE fines

I HAVE been reading about the death of a six-year-old girl who was playing on a swing at a park in Mile End, London.

A supporting part of the swing broke and hit the girl on her head. She was tended to immediately by parents and within a few minutes by paramedics but was pronounced dead shortly after in hospital.

The case was taken up by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which took the council to court and it was fined over £300,000. This kind of fine with a private company would be acceptable because the company would probably go bankrupt, but with the council, what will happen is the council will reduce the services and or increase the council tax.

I think the HSE should be identifying the persons responsible and suggest the council dismisses them.

It was reported that not only was the swing built to the wrong specification but it was poorly maintained. Are there not standards that are centrally developed for all councils in the UK to use rather than for each council develop their own rules?

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham.

Benefit cut

LAST week the government cut Universal Credit by £20 a week, and much of the financial support provided to help people through the Covid-19 pandemic was taken away. These cuts risk a Covid debt crisis as 11 million people have built up £25bn in arrears and debt since March 2020.

In Richmond, North Yorkshire, 6,203 people who receive Universal Credit will be affected by this cut. This includes 3,043 people who are also currently in-work.

Problem debt disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in our society, and is higher amongst low-income households, women, lone parents, communities of colour, disabled people and renters.

This Covid debt crisis threatens to weigh down our community for years to come, worsening inequalities and making a genuine economic recovery impossible.

As well as reversing the £20 cut to Universal Credit the government seriously needs to tackle problem debt in the UK – this means introducing grants and making it easier for those in problem debt to write it down in a fair and manageable way.

Dudley Edwards, Richmond.

Fairtrade petition

THIS November is our last, best chance to secure a future for our planet. As global leaders meet at the COP26 climate summit, we need urgent action.

Climate change is already damaging the livelihoods of farming communities who grow so much of our food. They are in the front line of a worsening crisis they have done the least to cause. This is a problem that affects us all.

Fairtrade farmers and workers numbering 1.8 million are calling for those in power to be fair with their climate promise.

We need our leaders to:

•Ensure that the $100bn per year they pledged to tackle a changing climate reaches those who need it most.

•Take responsibility for international aviation and shipping emissions in their carbon-cutting commitments.

•Make trade deals that encourage fair, low-carbon products that allow farmers to invest in sustainable farming.

•Strengthen rules that mean businesses invest in fair, sustainable supply chains and compel those who fall short to meet their responsibilities.

In order to stand with the farmers and workers we all rely on and support their call for change, please sign the petition at

Sally Chaplain, On behalf of the Stokesley and Great Ayton Fairtrade Group, Great Ayton.

Cancel culture

IN the letter “Positive message” (“D&S Times, Oct 8), RD Hildyard demonstrates how the debate on climate has effectively been closed down.

In the writer's view, anybody who disagrees is an “ostrich”, and as such, should not have their "lies" published.

The writer, of course, claims not to be a "woke" warrior and does not want to no-platform or cancel these "ostriches". Indeed, all RD Hildyard wants is for the editor not to publish letters from anybody who disagrees with the points raised. If these views are so widely held, why is there so little support for the Green Party?

Clearly, RD Hildyard believes the claim that there is a consensus among scientists that climate change is caused by human activity. Unfortunately, in science, consensus is not proof.

Before Juan Sebastian De Elcano (and Magellan) circumnavigated the earth in 1522, there was a scientific (and political) consensus that the earth was flat. Indeed, there is a Flat Earth Society still in existence to-day. This being the case, I’m sure there will still be a "Climate Extinction" cult well beyond the end of the next century

I have previously posed a question to the climate warriors but without any satisfactory reply.

If you manage to get China to stop using fossil fuels, and if this results in a fall in CO2, how are you going to feed the world population without the 25 per cent increased crop growth fed by the higher level of CO2?

Alastair PG Welsh, Aycliffe Village.