A dark week: Last week was a very dark week for Richmond’s businesses with the immediate or pending closure of four of our key local businesses, Cross View Tea Rooms, The Fleece, Ravensworth Nurseries and York House Antiques.

Richmond very much depends on independents and their loss with be sorely felt. Small independent businesses are currently facing a perfect storm. Having survived the enforced closure due to Covid, they have had to cope with big increases in the national and living wages, inflation, massive energy hikes and in many cases additional costs from Brexit. However, the greatest challenge has been the cost of living crisis.

There has been wide coverage of the effect on households, but little recognition of the impact on businesses, which is equally significant. Small independents are really struggling at the moment as there is simply not the money around.

What is sorely needed is a strategy to support these businesses. As we approach the election, we need to hear from the political parties and their candidates about what their strategy will be. Small independent businesses are the lifeblood of the local community and contribute significantly to both the local and national economy.

We cannot afford to lose them and need plans from both local and national government to both support them and help them develop further.

Paul Harrison, chair, ORBTA (Original Richmond Business and Tourism Association).

READ MORE: 'Massive shock' for town as four businesses in a week announce closures


UNEXPECTEDLY, this year, I have found myself in the clutches of the NHS for several months. By any standards, my treatment has been exemplary and executed with a speed and efficiency which the private health sector could only marvel at.

Nevertheless, it is easy to see where the NHS does not help itself. This week, unexpectedly, due to an appointment being changed at short notice, there was a risk of a clash with another appointment.

Helpfully, I had been given a helpline telephone number and an email to contact. Despite many attempts, the telephone number only elicited an answerphone message. The email address went one better with its immediate reply: "The *** Trust only accepts messages from people in its organisation or on its allowed senders list, and your email address isn't on the list."

No further comment.

Michael Brook, Sinderby.

Important article

THANK you for the superb interview with Curtis Fleming (D&S Times, July 28). Curtis’s work with Show Racism the Red Card and with Justice First is truly inspirational and, sadly, really needed. It is excellent to see him feature in our D&S – a really important article. Thank you.

Mark White, Billingham.

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Poor service

RECENT visits to places as far afield as Aberdeenshire and Norfolk and, more locally, to York, Middlesbrough and Darlington have served to demonstrate just how appallingly bad the bus services are in and around Northallerton.

With one exception (Bedale/Northallerton) the buses to and from Northallerton are, at an absolute minimum, on a two-hourly basis whereas everywhere else seem to operate on an hourly basis, indeed in some places it is half hourly or even less.

The Bedale/Northallerton bus is hourly, and I am told is self supporting whereas all other routes are subsidised. This and the evidence of my travels would suggest to me that the more frequent the buses the more likely people are to use them, something that North Yorkshire County Council failed to understand or, more likely chose to ignore.

The North Northallerton Development (NND) has added about 1,000 new houses to Northallerton and Brompton but not a single new bus service has been added or an existing one improved or route adjusted. The recently opened North Moor Road provides access to the NND, has bus stops marked but no buses to use them and no services have, as yet, been planned.

The residents are, I would suggest, already in the habit of using their cars so when the buses do appear they will be less likely to use them.

The newly created North Yorkshire Council (NYC) has just started its review of its Local Transport Plan (LTP) which involves a stakeholder engagement process during which they, quite rightly, consider it crucial that town and parish councils' views and aspirations are considered.

However why have they started this process in August when most town and village councils are in recess for the summer? If this is the way the new unitary authority is going to do business, there is little likelihood of bus services being improved.

There are at least another 500 new homes planned for Northallerton which would, I suggest, means that the Northallerton, Brompton and Romanby conurbation would be big enough to sustain a circular half hourly bus route which needs to be in place once the houses are complete not, as I naively assumed, it would be for the NND.

Despite the environmental advantages this might achieve and that somewhere within the great monolith that is now NYC there is a pot of £500,000 for public transport improvements it is very unlikely to happen given NYC's attitude to “consultation” and its very apparent support for cars, with its negative attitude to the 20s Plenty campaign.

Robert Carter, Brompton, Northallerton.

Asking for help

I TOO think that Rishi Sunak has been a master of the photo opportunity, whilst not actually helping his constituents (D&S Times Letters, July 28).

I had cause to ask for his help in late 2019 when my State Pension was reduced by the DWP by £1,000 per year (this despite the Government's own website saying that State Pension is not means tested).

All that Rishi Sunak did was to repeat the DWP’s reasoning – instead of getting to grips with my problem – yet he was in a position to help solve it.

My friends and I will not be voting for him in the next election.

Anne Camm, Richmond.

Fossil fuels

ON behalf of the members of Richmond Constituency Green Party, I would like to express our disgust at Rishi Sunak’s announcement this week that the Government is to grant new licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

To those of us who are aware of the Prime Minister’s voting record on environmental issues, it comes as no surprise that he has no interest in or understanding of the climate crisis. But for this announcement to come at a time of record temperatures worldwide, with wildfires and floods on our TV screens on an almost daily basis, it truly beggars belief and flies in the face of all recommendations from scientists and environmentalists.

A Prime Minister worth his or her salt should have the vision and ability to take the country forward and deal constructively with the biggest issue of our time. Sadly, ours takes us backwards, with no regard for the long-term consequences.

Margaret Lowndes, Richmond Constituency Green Party.

Points of view

IS it fair of Bridget Holmstrom (D&S Times Letters, July 21) and others to refer to Alastair Welsh as a climate change denier?

In their fervour to mitigate current rise in temperature, people like Bridget appear to confuse the current period of warming, with the valid question as to whether CO2 is contributing to that warming?

Surely, the essence of good science requires the ability to doubt, and entertain the possibility of another point of view. When willing to consider a perspective that goes against mainstream thinking, we would surely be slower to put someone who disagrees with the popular view, into the "denier" camp.

Susan Holden, Richmond.

Cart before the horse

THE fallacy of Alastair Welsh’s argument (D&S Times Letters, July 28) that global temperature rises precede rather than result from increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is easily shown by a glance at graphs showing the trends in both over the last 150 years.

CO2 emissions began to increase significantly after about 1870 then much more rapidly after 1950 to reach more than 400 parts per million, a level not recorded in ice core data at any time in the last 800,000 years.

Following this rise in CO2, global average temperatures began to rise in the early 20th Century then climbed much more steeply after 1970. I suggest that to avoid his error in putting the cart before the horse, Mr Welsh checks out some reputable web sites (the Met Office and the Royal Society would be a good start).

Frank Broughton, Brompton on Swale.

Fuel station future

JUST when will the Government concede the fact that banning the sale of diesel/petrol engined cars by 2030 will be suicidal for our country?

The people who have made this decision appear to be oblivious of the irretrievable damage they are going to cause. The simple facts are electric cars are between £10,000 and £20,000 more expensive, they now cost more to run, the range especially in winter is abysmal, it takes hours to recharge them and they will have virtually zero second hand value. When the batteries do fail they are basically scrap, plus there will surely be a charge to dispose of them.

If they catch fire in an accident they will explode like a bomb, they are expensive to maintain and work on, especially by unqualified people. The real downside that few seem to realise is once this change occurs and the refineries wind down production of liquid fuels or even close, leading to the infrastructure nationwide for the supply of petrol and diesel to be dismantled, all fuel stations throughout the country will close, bowing to legislation to decommission their storage tanks by draining and filling them with concrete or sand, as even when empty petrol vapours can linger for years. This process will cost millions of pounds, it is then game over.

The misinformed in power appear not to have thought this through, perhaps someone should tap Messrs Gove and Sunak on the shoulder and point this out, thus saving us all further humiliation from the rest of the world, when it all goes pear shaped.

Those responsible, I imagine, will stand with heads bowed and utter that famous adage, "lessons have been learned".

However, it is we that tax paying public who will pick up the tab for yet another catastrophic blunder by the so called educated elite in power.

Trevor Mason, Swainby.

Access for all

AS our society continues to embrace technology and digitalisation, we must not overlook the fact that a significant portion of our elderly population is not as computer-savvy as younger generations.

Age UK has recently published a report highlighting the challenges faced by older people in accessing local public services in our increasingly digital world.

The report sheds light on the difficulties older people encounter when attempting to access essential services, such as applying for a Blue Badge or seeking local authority support, if they are not proficient in using digital platforms.

One of the most concerning findings is that many local authorities now strongly encourage people to access services digitally, often without adequately promoting offline alternatives.

In some cases, these offline options are not available at all or are challenging to find and use.

This is putting undue pressure on older individuals who may not have the necessary digital skills or access to online resources.

We discovered that while some councils do have alternative methods for applying for a Blue Badge, these options are not adequately advertised, making it difficult for those offline to be aware of and access them.

Furthermore, many local authorities direct individuals who are not online to seek assistance from voluntary organisations like Age UK, without offering any recompense.

This places additional strain on our already hard-pressed local voluntary services.

It is crucial to note that around one in five people aged 65 plus do not use the internet, and even those who are online might not have the confidence and skills to navigate the complexities of online applications that often require personal information and document uploads.

Digital exclusion disproportionately affects older individuals, particularly those with disabilities, and these are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

We strongly urge local councils to consider their equality responsibilities when designing policies and delivering services. If councils fail to provide suitable non-digital alternatives, they risk breaching the 2010 Equality Act, potentially exposing themselves to legal challenges.

We acknowledge that local authorities are under financial pressure and that digitalisation can be cost-effective.

However, it is of utmost importance that essential services remain fully accessible to everyone, regardless of their digital literacy.

The availability of Blue Badges is particularly vital as the prevalence of disability increases with age.

We hope that our research will prompt councils across the region to reassess their systems and collaborate with local organisations to ensure inclusivity and accessibility for everyone.

Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington is committed to increasing digital engagement, and through our Digital Champions scheme, we provide digital inclusion services to help older people gain digital skills.

Helen Hunter, CEO, Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington.