Town parking: It is very disappointing and sad to see the decline in Darlington town centre.

There is little of interest for serious shoppers, and there was litter and broken bottles on the pavements when I was there this week, and many premises are either boarded up or are unattractive.

There are several reasons of course but in my view the council are not spending council tax wisely.

For example, a cycle lane has been made on Coniscliffe Road, and I have never seen a cycle use it.

Was a study carried out prior to construction to determine if it would be value for money?

The library is also undergoing major building works, what will be the commercial benefit to the town?

Also Skinnergate is currently a mass of scaffolding, less shops at the end of the day?

I am partially disabled, and the parking facilities in the town centre are appalling, as emphasis is placed more on taxi ranks and unloading bays.

Also most double yellow lanes only allow unloading.

The Grange Road end of Coniscliffe Road has been partially closed to traffic and planters formed in the road, instead of facilities for disabled parking.

I suggest the town centre; Tubwell Row, High Row, Northgate and the Market Square, be re-laid out for car parking, as in my view the space is currently wasted (for example get rid of the buses as they are polluting, noisy, and dangerous).

This would then compare with other towns such as Northallerton and Barnard Castle, where parking is encouraged in the town centre, and they are therefore thriving market towns.

Perhaps the local elections next month will wake up our councillors.

W H Pigott, Darlington.

Safety concerns

HAVING been a very keen cyclist for many years and enjoyed cycling all over Europe especially Spain on fantastic distinguished fluorescent safe bike lanes, how come Darlington Borough Council have wasted millions of our pounds on the construction of new unsafe cycling lanes ie Woodlands Road?

In my opinion these are unsafe and unfit for purpose.

Whoever is in charge, including Ian Williams, our chief executive, should hand in their resignation with immediate effect before they construct anymore unsafe bike lanes.

Stan Wilby, Darlington.

Public art

RAY LONSDALE'S projected sculpture for Northallerton seems to have been inadequately described in the local press – “Sculpture commissioned before plan is considered” (D&S Times, Apr 7).

His intention no doubt is to portray the little girl who was incarcerated in Northallerton Prison in 1872 for stealing a loaf of bread, but the part of his work that has been revealed so far does not represent Sophia, so must surely be the adult authority figure who forms the other part of his two-figure composition.

When Lonsdale came to give a presentation at All Saints' Church, he did mention that he had in mind a second figure, possibly a prison warder.

He confessed to not feeling comfortable as a public speaker, but a skilful interviewer might have elicited something more about his vision and method of working.

I am unsure whether he works from a maquette, a blue print or a working diagram, or just from an idea in his head, which evolves as he goes along.

I should have asked him, and so, possibly, should the reporter who wrote the most recent article and seems to have got the wrong end of the stick.

Perhaps Northallerton deserves a striking piece of public art by a celebrated artist.

The Millennium Fountain, which might have been bought from a garden centre, was hardly an unqualified success.

Admittedly, £85,000 seems like a lot of money and I can understand that some people will object on the grounds that public money is being used, while an increasing number of Northallerton's citizens are relying on food banks.

It seems a sad irony that although many things have improved since Victorian times, certain aspects of life have not.

Phoebe Newton, Northallerton.

Wasting money

IT beggars belief that the government can spend £8m on pictures of King Charles to hang around the country in offices that most of the population will not see yet the very people who saved many patients lives in the Covid crisis – our NHS staff – are having to resort to strike action to get a decent pay rise, especially those that caught the disease, and the very unfortunate ones that died in the fight to control it.

Around Great Ayton there are many road drains that are blocked solid with leaves and debris and have not been cleaned out for 18 months or more causing roadside flooding and a risk of accidents, inconvenience to pedestrians when getting splashed by passing traffic yet our council reorganisation saw nearly £1m in golden handshakes paid out.

We have had to endure an increase in council tax but are not getting better service yet our money can it seems be thrown at unnecessary wastage.

C P Atkinson, Great Ayton.

Monarchy and slavery

KING CHARLES has agreed to open the Royal Archives for an independent study by a PhD student exploring the historic relationship between the monarchy and the slave trade.

According to the Palace, King Charles takes the matter of historic slavery "profoundly seriously".

That is completely natural.

I am sure everyone agrees that slavery was evil and wrong and that shameful acts were sometimes committed in the past under the flag of the British Empire.

But more than 200 years ago, Great Britain was at the forefront in abolishing the slave trade – it was abolished in the British Empire in 1807, long before many other countries of the world including of course the USA, and the Crown was centre-stage in its denunciation.

Indeed years before Abraham Lincoln became President of the USA, Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, did in June 1840, only some three months after his marriage to Queen Victoria condemn slavery as the "blackest stain" on civilisation.

It has been reported that this gesture by the King "represents a significant moment in our history".

I can see this being the case because once the study is completed and published, any negative aspects within it concerning the role of British monarchs from hundreds of years ago relating to the slave trade will be seized upon by those who seek to abolish the Crown and any positive aspects in relation to the Crown’s role in the abolition of slavery, likely ignored.

For all the arguments and debates that regularly take place about the benefits or otherwise of maintaining a Constitutional Monarchy there is in its favour surely none more powerful than having a look across the Pond to see the consequences of Republicanism in the most powerful democracy on Earth and considering who have been Presidents of the USA.

I know which system is preferable.

Ian Thompson, Spennymoor.

Lawson’s legacy

NIGELLA LAWSON cooks up many tasty dishes. Her father was responsible for something infinitely more unpleasant.

Nigel Lawson was Margaret Thatcher's henchman and Chancellor between 1983-89.

He was idolised by Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and current PM, Rishi Sunak.

Many other lesser Tories have leapt on the bandwagon to praise the climate change denying, neo-liberal.

Lawson's signature political dishes were a fire sale of public assets and de-regulation of banking and City of London operations.

He also used the North Sea oil windfall to fund tax cuts for the rich.

In 2023 his disciples used the pandemic legacy and the Ukraine war to justify massive profiteering.

In the 80s British Aerospace, British Airways, British Petroleum, British Steel. Kerching!

They all went for a song. Lawson's sale of electricity and water was postponed until after the 1986 general election.

Why? Because, then as now, privatisation was hugely unpopular.

Today millions of Brits face the consequences of the greed driven policies of this so-called giant of British politics.

Lawson's legacy is the soaring cost of energy and water and the disgusting pollution of our rivers and beaches. And all to line the pockets of transnational corporations!

Will Labour undo the ruinous damage perpetrated by Maggie's close mate?

Will it rein in the banks and re-nationalise water and energy?

Keir Starmer's contribution to the Lawson love-in described him as a British political ''powerhouse''.

There's your answer.

C Walker, Darlington.

Get walking

OUR future councillors need to prioritise improving our streets in their upcoming term to help people choose cleaner and healthier ways to travel.

The benefits of people walking more are plentiful, from increased physical activity and better health to reduced congestion and cleaner air.

Ahead of local elections and National Walking Month this May, walking charity Living Streets has set out seven steps to create better places for walking in their Blueprint for Change.

Steps include maintaining pavements, improving pedestrian crossings, and investing in public transport.

You can read more about this at

All these measures can make walking a safer and more attractive option and help bring our communities and streets to life.

It’s time to give walking the priority it deserves.

Graham Wilson, Lingdale, Saltburn.

Gender equality

A LOCAL TV reporter asked three teenage girls if they would marry, and they all said “no”. Oh dear.

Back in the studio, the conversation was “aren’t all young girls negative now” and they all agreed.

Surely those young girls were much more in touch with the realities of their future ie decreasing resources, global warming, unrest and wars, rising sea levels so less land for crops, pollution of the seas and land etc etc.

But also, women are at last taking their rightful place in society and want some of what men have taken for granted for too long – careers and freedom.

After the Second World War, the Japanese emperor is reputed to have stated that their biggest resource was their people and set about using that resource with great success.

So now we need a global supremo to show how to survive with slowly reducing human populations because we are an inflationary species in a deflationary world.

That’s not a negative view, it’s a positive fact.

C Davison, Billingham.

Open weekend

THE Easter weekend saw Tees Cottage Pumping Station open its doors to the public for the first time this year.

Unfortunately the weather was not particularly understanding and a boiler problem prevented us from raising steam and so operating our Beam Engine.

However, our 1914 Richard Hornsby Gas Engine performed beautifully on both days, to the enjoyment of its many fans.

Feedback from our 650 visitors was positive and the Cottage Tea Room did a brisk trade providing (hot!) refreshments.

The Smithy also proved a popular destination, the site blacksmiths demonstrating their craft and selling their wares.

We would particularly like to thank our visitors for braving the elements and our volunteers and stall holders for providing the attractions.

We look forward to having all our engines operational, and some sunshine, for our next open weekend, on May 20 and 21.

The Directors, Tees Cottage Pumping Station, Darlington.