'Plank' bridge

STOKESLEY Town Council are failing to give accurate information regarding the replacement of a 'plank' bridge, this small slab of stone or concrete which forms part of a public right of way (D&S Times, Feb 25).

This public right of way, on the north side of the River Leven, disappears into a narrow passage which, although it will accommodate small children in single file, it will most certainly not accommodate wheelchairs, pushchairs or bicycles. A public right of way does not exist through the adjacent hotel yard.

This omission is helping to fend off criticism of the town council's completely unnecessary proposal to replace this small, harmless historic part of our town's heritage with an inappropriate and overpowering steel structure.

By granting planning approval, Hambleton District Council have shown little consideration to the opinions of residents.

Both councils' attempt to hide behind the provisions of the Health and Safety Act are fatuous.

It is totally bewildering why this bridge only and not its identical contemporary along the same river is considered.

There are duck ponds in local authority parks which are unfenced so why are there health and safety issues when we are only crossing a few inches of water?

There are plenty of opportunities available in Stokesley shops to sign the already substantial petitions countering this plan.

Alwyn Boulby, Stokesley.

Backing murals

THE many Richmond fans of murals should visit Caernarvon and Bangor, North Wales, to see the works of Ed Povey from the 1970s, in all their fading glory. “Planners say mural on listed shop should go” (D&S Times, Feb 25).

Whole gable ends and shop fronts covered in painted baked bean tins, Saxa salt boxes and huge ripe tomatoes, the stuff of nightmares for the Richmondshire planners.

Far from offending the local politicians, these works have attracted official approval, with the university and the local council sponsoring murals, in the days when councils could afford such fripperies.

Whether these works received consent under the advertisement regulations or required listed building consent, I cannot say, but they brighten up Bangor no end.

Tony Robinson, Romanby, Northallerton.

Local plan

I AM proud to be part of the large number of people who oppose the Skerningham Garden Community in the Darlington Local Plan.

It is interesting to note that Darlington Council Planners drew up their Strategic Housing Land Allocation Assessment (SHLAA) in September 2015 which clearly stated, and without question, that Skerningham was unsuitable for housing development and in amongst the reasons were there was a "high risk of contamination of part due to Barmpton landfill and there was no sewage or water infrastructure in the vicinity".

Yet astonishingly a mere two years later, Skerningham was found to be suitable by the Darlington planners for housing development of 4,500 houses.

This and other evidence was presented to the Planning Inspector who scrutinised the Darlington Local Plan but he ignored the evidence why Skerningham was unsuitable for housing including the 2015 SHLAA findings. We will never know why he did so.

No one is disputing that there is a need for a Local Plan but the aim of the plan should be to reduce the harm which major developments will cause to the environment, the countryside, the wildlife, habitats and existing communities and residents and should ignore those sites where there is clear evidence to make them unsuitable as the 2015 SHLAA clearly found for Skerningham.

The Darlington Local Plan which was narrowly passed by borough councillors will cause major harm to the environment and the lives of countless numbers of residents in north and north east Darlington. The beautiful Skerningham countryside and its wildlife and its balanced ecosystem will be utterly destroyed and lost forever.

The real losers in all of this are residents in north east Darlington and the wildlife who live in the Skerningham countryside, future generations who will have to live alongside this devastation and destruction of the countryside and the wildlife whose habitats will be destroyed. The Skerningham countryside is valued and gives pleasure to countless numbers of people which contributes to their health and wellbeing and whose lives will be immeasurably made worse.

Alan Macnab, Darlington.

Right to protest

WE are horrified by the catastrophe inflicted on Ukrainians by Russian president Vladmir Putin, and we applaud the brave defiance of Russians protesting against the invasion. We know that they risk summary justice, brutality, and death.

We also know that such demonstrations are critical for peaceful regime change.

It is shocking and chilling that while Ukrainian blood is shed, our government has legislated to make it a crime for us to protest peacefully. Most of us did not vote for this government or agree with these policies.

The three stated purposes of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 are: “Back our police by equipping officers with the powers and tools they need to keep themselves and all of us safe. Introduce tougher sentencing for the worst offenders and end automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes. Improve the efficiency of the court and tribunal system by modernising existing court processes.” No other purposes are stated in the bill’s main factsheet.

Why did MPs vote for this? Why have so many MPs taken vast sums of money from Russians linked to Putin?

This throttling of our liberty and expression is aided by Pravda-type media and silence. Some media outrageously attacked our judiciary, which critically is independent, with the destructive baseless slur of “enemies of the people".

We know from Russia today and the Second World War the destruction and misery caused by powerful, lying, narcissistic sociopaths who suppress protests and opposition.

Are government supporters such as councillors, would-be councillors, and party members actually secret autocrats or merely complicit “useful stooges”? It doesn’t have to be this way.

The defiance of the Ukrainians and global solidarity show humanity at its best. Tory MP Dan Poulter showed the way – let’s contact MPs, councillors and party members and remind them that preventing peaceful protest and criminalising good Samaritans is wrong and dangerous.

Let’s not wait until future generations ask why we let autocracy win.

Mark Harrison, Swainby, Northallerton.

Pray for Ukraine

THE pictures and video footage shown on millions of televisions in the UK shows ordinary Ukrainian refugees fleeing their homes for their lives, and brave Ukrainian volunteers – men, women, young and old, friends and entire families – joining units all over Ukraine to fight Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces.

In Russia they are not allowed to call it a war but must call it a "special operation".

Yet cities, towns and villages have been indiscriminately bombed and attacked by missiles by land air and sea. NATO cannot provide a no fly zone over Ukraine as this would lead to a world war.

All we can do is provide them with anti-tank weapons, stingers and heavy weaponry, as well as medical supplies food, water and shelter.

I believe those who volunteer from the UK who wish to fight for Ukraine should have some form of military experience which would be of some comfort to Ukrainian authorities. Experience is what they desperately need.

I wish to express my sadness and sympathies to all those who have witnessed and experienced horrendous losses that I can't even begin to imagine.

All I can say under these difficult circumstances, they are doing all they possibly can under these extraordinary times we are all witnessing at home and abroad.

We pray Ukraine will keep fighting and hope it's not too late.

Alistair Rutter, Bishop Auckland.

One false move

THE initial purpose of the EU was to promote peace and wellbeing for EU citizens.

The proponents of the EU hoped that it would be an end to future hostilities given that historically Europe was the cradle of both world wars.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was strongly opposed to the EU concept and feared it would attract more Eastern European members.

He must have jumped for joy at the UK’s recent withdrawal, suspecting it would weaken the alliance.

Ever the opportunist, it has emboldened him to pursue his dream to recreate the former Soviet Union and invasion of Ukraine could be step one.

As John Dickinson wrote in the “Liberty Song,” united we stand, divided we fall.

Name supplied, Darlington.

Mob mentality

THE Pope, addressing the crowds in St Peter’s Square, said: "May the weapons fall silent. God is with the peacemakers, not with those who use violence.” Many western governments have supplied weapons to Ukraine.

The Pope has only a limited view of humanity but he is a huge, clear thinking figure to many and totally at odds with our western leaders. By supplying weapons, people will be, and probably have been, killed. Peace is peace, not taking sides.

When I was young, at school, there were often fights. A large crowd formed around the fighters and there was the chant of “fight, fight, fight, fight” .The fighters could not back out or settle their differences, goaded on by the mob around them. Whoever started the conflict could not retreat and the inevitable result was bloody.

Is it right that one person’s death is bad but another’s good?

If we really care about people we should be careful about being in the mob.

Chris Pattison, Richmond.

Path to peace

CALLS for peace in Ukraine have triggered suspiciously similar reactions in the political establishments of both Russia and the West.

Arrests of anti-war protesters in St Petersburg and other Russian cities mirror comments by the Tories' Tom Tugendhat about reforming treason laws, and compulsory loyalty commitments to NATO by MPs, from Kier Starmer's Labour Party.

The UK grandstands about economic sanctions, but London's property market and City financial institutions have been a home from home for Russian oligarchs for decades. There are also those embarrassing revelations about roubles and Tory finances.

Meanwhile this posturing brings us no closer to peace.

The path to ending the conflict lies in negotiations and a guarantee of Ukraine's neutrality and sovereignty.

The NATO encirclement of Russia (and China), partially paid for by UK taxpayers, has simply driven these countries closer together.

Only popular anti-war protests will force Putin and NATO to sanity.

C Walker, Darlington.


FAIRTRADE Fortnight (February 21 to March 6, 2022) is celebrating and supporting Fairtrade farmers taking on the climate crisis.

Stokesley and Ayton Fairtrade Group ask readers to choose Fairtrade products, to enable farmers such as Jenipher Sambuzi, from Uganda, to sell her coffee at a fair price and support school projects in many communities that produce our tea.

Low-income countries are being hit hardest by climate change with the extreme weather conditions destroying crops such as bananas, tea, coffee and cocoa, as well as causing many plant diseases. The workers' lives become harder every day, they are not even able to earn enough for the basics of life such as food, medical treatment and education for their children.

On the other hand it's the richest ten per cent who produce 50 per cent of the emissions but are, as yet, feeling little of the effects.

By choosing to buy Fairtrade products, we can help give these poor people more power and money so they have the resources to take on the climate crisis. Fairtrade producer networks across the world run projects encouraging sustainable growing, with environmental protection, including reducing greenhouse emissions and safeguarding forests and biodiversity, being fundamental.

Thank you for reading and here’s hoping readers choose and enjoy more Fairtrade products.

Eileen Driver on behalf of Stokesley and Great Ayton Fairtrade Group.

Photo distancing

I HAVE recently applied to renew my passport, including the required photos, taken at the booth in my local supermarket.

Although I was sitting on the seat provided for the photo, I've had a return message from the passport office to say I'm too close to the camera!

Take care – you must be 1.5 metres away from the camera.

I'll need to take my ruler next time, and another £8.

Marian Codling, Sowerby.