Homes proposals

WITH reference to your lead article, “Radical solutions set out to tackle housing crisis” (D&S Times, Jul 1).

The generation of funds by taxing second homes in North Yorkshire is a controversial, but in my opinion welcome suggestion and I hope North Yorkshire Council can carry through this recommendation by the Rural Commission.

It is with the second part of the recommendation however, that I take issue.

For the Rural Commission to suggest that the 730 parishes in North Yorkshire should each build five houses over a ten-year period, with 40 per cent affordable is surely, simply, wishful thinking. I suggest this proposal is grounded in mathematics alone and bears no relation to the mechanics (or desire) of parish and town councils to shoulder the responsibility of solving North Yorkshire’s housing problems, even if planning legislation supports it.

The baton has now been handed over to Richard Flinton who along with the newly formed “Rural Task Force” has the task of achieving this, although I imagine the outcome of their work will be another lengthy strategic report(s) rather than houses on the ground.

This fits in ideally with North Yorkshire’s “double devolution” strategy whereby parish and town councils share the burden, and whereas there will be a few large enough to support it, most won’t.

This is an opinion and I would be interested to hear the opinions of North Yorkshire councillors or perhaps members of the task force, the question being, is the proposal from the Rural Commission realistic and practical?

What isn’t opinion however are the following facts, taken from North Yorkshire Council’s own website.

In a preference survey carried out by the government following the two unitary authority submissions by NYCC and the district councils, only 72 of the parishes actually replied. Further to this, of the 72 who did reply, the majority preferred the district councils’ submission. This hardly suggests that parish councils are, on the whole, engaged with or supportive of NYCC’s “double devolution” principle. The Rural Commission’s suggestion will be a good gauge of this, if it ever gets off the ground.

B Forbes, Thornton-le-Moor, Northallerton.

Blea Moor stop

RAILWAY enthusiasts, specifically those fascinated by the Settle-Carlisle line, will no doubt will be greatly surprised to learn from Jonathan Swift’s “Weekend Walk” article, and accompanying diagram (D&S Times, Jul 8), that there was once a station at Blea Moor; a supposedly busy one at that! Ribblehead station, located immediately south of the famous viaduct, has unsurprisingly never been renowned for attracting much custom, except present day hikers, because of its remote location.

For another station to have existed even more into the wilds a further one mile 20 chains to the north is beyond the realms of fantasy.

Perhaps Mr Smith was confused by the existence of Blea Moor signal box, which in signalling terms works under the double line Absolute Block Regulations to Settle Junction signal box, 14 miles 36 chains to the south, and to Garsdale signal box eight miles 14 chains to the north.

Its official railway mileage is 248 miles 40 chains, the distance from London St Pancras via some now closed routes (ie Cudworth). It is situated on the Up (to Settle) side, replacing the previous signal box on the Down (to Carlisle) side in 1941.

It is believed that many years ago local passenger trains were occasionally permitted to stop at Blea Moor to pick up/set down railway employees who lived in the adjoining cottages, now demolished, to enable them to go shopping.

Incidentally, a serious derailment occurred at Blea Moor on April 18, 1952 when the Glasgow to St Pancras “Thames-Clyde” Express, travelling at 55mph, became derailed owing to a brake rod on the leading of the two engines becoming detached, and forcing open a set of points. Although the resulting damage was considerable, given that the train was conveying nearly 200 passengers it was a miracle there were no fatalities, although 29 passengers and five railway servants were injured.

Charles Allenby, Malton.

Flooding cause

I READ with interest the article “Communities enlisted to help tackle flooding” (D&S Times, Jul 8).

On the junction of the A173/B1292 Middlesbrough Road and Langbaurgh Close in Great Ayton there are several drains which have been blocked with leaves since last autumn.

I have emailed North Yorkshire County Council twice on this matter and got neither a reply or more importantly the drains cleaned.

In very heavy rain the A173 has been known to flood over to the white centre line so there is a risk of accident here.

There are also two drains blocked by leaves on Newton Road close to the junction with Station Road. These two cause pedestrians to be splashed with dirty water by vehicles which have to keep close to the footpath due to the road width being narrow.

For this new strategy to work the council is going to have to take notice of reported incidents and act on them quickly.

CP Atkinson, Great Ayton.

New council

WILL the new North Yorkshire Council use the opportunity to level up or level down?

The new North Yorkshire unitary authority will come into effect in April 2023.

There are many issues to be resolved to merge the services and responsibilities of the existing seven district councils into the new one. The timescale is tight and there is a lot to be done.

The cost of living crisis is driving the level of rural poverty to new heights.

Will the new North Yorkshire council add to this?

Currently each district council controls and operates schemes to provide financial help to people on very low incomes, for example, the Council Tax reduction scheme. Each district council’s scheme is different and this means people with the same income will receive different levels of support depending on which council area they live in.

For example, a family with two or more children living in Hambleton with a weekly income of between £397 and £467 per week would be £7.63 per week better off under the Hambleton scheme than the Ryedale scheme as Hambleton provides a 30 per cent reduction in council tax worth £397*, which is not available to residents in Ryedale (*figure is based on an average of the Band A council tax of the two councils).

The new North Yorkshire Council has set a deadline of December 2022 for agreeing a single scheme across the county.

The creation of a new scheme to support those on the lowest incomes is being done against a background of a reduction in central Government funding to local authorities and a pledge from the Conservative leadership of the North Yorkshire council that: “One of the biggest drivers for local government re-organisation is the potential savings that could be realised.”

Will the merger of council services and responsibilities seek to level up or level down the provision across the county? Given the current cost of living crisis, it is imperative to write to your newly elected county councillor to demand that the new unitary authority pursues a levelling up approach and not one of cost reduction and consequential levelling down.

Mark White, communications officer, Thirsk and Malton Labour Party.

Leader votes

ALTHOUGH many “red wall” constituents may have voted Conservative in 2019 I believe that very few are actually members of the party able to vote for the new leader.

The large majority of members are well off and therefore may be inclined to vote for a candidate who will reduce their tax burden.

This could lead to a disaster for public services upon which we all depend, but especially those who are less well off.

This includes not only the health and social care services, but also prisons, probation, courts of law, the benefits system, renewable energy and all manner of infrastructure.

Local authorities also depend heavily on central taxation for education, social work, waste collection etc.

The wrong Tory leader could lead to a breakdown of structures in society as we have known them.

As the Green Party along with other political parties (not forgetting parties in the devolved administrations) have no say in who is to become our next Prime Minister, I write this to appeal to Conservative Party members to consider seriously the whole nation when voting for their new leader.

Moreover we would not want Her Majesty the Queen to be obliged to make an appointment that might further threaten the cohesion of the United Kingdom of which she is the Head of State.

Lisle Ryder, Newton-le-Willows.

Naïve actions

RISHI SUNAK for Prime Minister – maybe. No one can doubt his academic ability but sadly the university he missed out on and the most important one is that of the one of life.

The liberal elite appear to look down on the working man as an inferior species, therefore seem to brush aside any advice offered.

When he as Chancellor abolished low tax red diesel to the construction industry for the alternative (white) diesel on April 1 (he certainly chose the right month) I advised him in a letter on February 3 of the possible consequences which he ignored, the resulting devastation which followed and still continues is costing the construction industry untold millions of pounds, not only because of the added tax but also of the theft of fuel, which is now rife, as I warned would happen.

The tax increase could have been added to red diesel (gas oil) for the construction industry and any other applications by the fuel companies thus making policing unnecessary.

Mr Sunak’s naïve actions make Boris Johnson’s mistakes pale into insignificance by comparison.

Should Mr Sunak become Prime Minister one can only hope he will listen to the pros and cons before making decisions which could affect the lives of so many. Only time will tell.

Trevor Mason, Swainby.

Backing Rishi

THEY say the Tory party is an absolute monarchy, interrupted by incredibly violent bouts of regicide.

Boris Johnson was bought in to do a job; not just to get Brexit done, but to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Number 10.

That was the right thing to do – crass vulgarity is always preferable to utter insanity.

But what needed to be done is now done, and all that remains is to tie the loose ends of Boris Johnson’s leadership into bitter knots.

Although the leadership ballot is private, as an elected representative, I think it’s important people know who I support.

A person’s worth is measured by the worth of what he values, and who you support is a reflection of who you are and what you stand for. That’s why I’m supporting Rishi Sunak.

At this stage of the race the support of a local councillor means very little.

It’s all about MPs – but unlike MPs, I’m not hoping to be promoted or afraid of being sacked.

All I want is a Conservative government that’s going to take this country forward.

I want someone who is capable of real leadership – that means providing a vision, working hard to understand what it takes to get there, and being accountable for their role on that journey.

I want a leader who will sustain adversity with firmness and prosperity with moderation.

I want a leader that’s prepared to stake our claim to the future.

The first time I met Rishi was at his selection. In the seven years since then I’ve seen him work hard, both as an MP and as a minister, and I’ve seen the excellent qualities that have made him such a fantastic public servant. But there are three of Rishi’s values I hold in particularly high regard; compassion, competence and conviction.

With the challenges the country faces, I want someone who can restore trust in our politics, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.

What I see when I see Rishi, beneath that polish and professionalism, is a man who has spent the last seven years of his life delivering for his country and his community.

I see a man who, at every turn, has taken decisions that required compassion, competence and conviction. I see a man who, time after time, has backed Britain. And now I think it’s time for us to back him.

Cllr Tom Jones, Scotton and Lower Wensleydale Division, Bedale.

Next move?

I WAS wondering if Boris Johnson intends to launch a new political party?

His references to the Tory Party as “that” party in his resignation speech may be an indication he is considering the matter.

Cllr Nigel Boddy (Lib Dem) North Road Ward, Darlington.