Viaduct vegetation: NETWORK RAIL have moved onto the site of Yarm Viaduct to commence underpinning of the viaduct.

I was alerted to the public meeting by the notice in the Darlington and Stockton Times and met representatives of Network Rail last week. 

I've lived in Yarm for 40 years and have noticed the contractors' stone plaque, sited on the central column of the bridge – see photo – has become ever more encroached upon by vegetation which is surely going to cause irreparable damage, causing parts of the carved stonework to become damaged and/or become detached.

I wish to suggest that as this totally unique plaque is a testament to the capabilities of the engineers, designers and contractors who built the viaduct and bridge, it would be a disgrace to allow this sign of their proud achievement to disintegrate. Especially as a tiny part of the overall cost?

I hope Network Rail will confirm that they will attend to the refurbishment of this plaque whilst working to protect the rest of the viaduct and bridge.

Steve Crighton, Yarm.

Flood prevention

I WAS chair of Brompton Flood Prevention Group for eight years from 2013 when Brompton Town Council asked us to take on the daunting task of helping to prevent flooding in Brompton.

We researched natural flood defences, as the Environment Agency would not pay for a reservoir further upland.

Also Rishi Sunak was instrumental in our success as he persuaded the Internal Drainage Board in 2016 to allow our first leaky dam to be built.

Contrary to what Brompton Town Council says (D&S Times, Nov 3) it is not the leaky dams that are saving Brompton, but the two ponds that we had contractors build.

How it works is the leaky dams are made from logs with small spaces between, so they slow the flow of water in the Ing tributary and the water automatically flows into two ponds on a local farmer’s land.

Also rainwater collects in them with a total capacity of 3,000 cubic metres. When the rain subsides the water flows out of the ponds back into the beck and the dams continue to slow the flow. After getting a green spaces grant of £20,000 from Hambleton District Council, our fundraising and Brompton Town Council gave us £2,000 for a few years, we employed a hydrologist and a contractor but eventually we ran out of money.

The Environment Agency finished off the last pond but it took them three years and they didn’t finish the wing-walls on four leaky dams.

The flood group disbanded and the farmer said the dams must be repaired as the water was eroding his land.

I had to convince the contractor he was getting paid by Brompton Council Council and the Internal Drainage Board managed to find a slot this autumn, as they should have been repaired earlier.

We stopped making leaky dams due to maintenance costs and concentrated on ponds with low maintenance. It is because of the efforts and determination of the flood group that Brompton has not been flooded since the ponds were built.

However we are grateful that Brompton Town Council are making flood prevention their priority, so if they can find another farmer in the area to allow a pond to be built, that would help us in the future with climate change.

Sue Butler-Smith, Brompton Village, Northallerton.

Dear Mr Sunak

AN open letter: We would like express our great disappointment and frustration at your recent backtracking on measures to combat climate change.

The delay in halting sales of new diesel and petrol vehicles, the postponement of the ban on new fossil fuel boilers to 2035, the scrapping of the requirement for landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties, coming on top of the recent approval of the Rosebank development in the North Sea seriously jeopardises this country’s ability to meet its climate change goals.

Whilst acknowledging the progress that has been made by Britain towards achieving net zero, it would be complacency in the extreme now to sit back on our laurels and not do all we can to improve our performance.

Your own climate change committee is concerned that the lack of commitment risks the country losing its reputation as a climate leader.

We appreciate the desire of the Government not to impose an unreasonable financial burden on those now struggling with the cost of living but see that many of those policy changes merely delay, and could increase, the ultimate cost to consumers.

The potential global catastrophe which climate change represents makes this important an issue to be guided by short term decision making.

As a parent of young children, you must agree that their future demands the utmost effort be made to contain the threat we face.

Newton-le-Willows Climate Change Group.

VAT costs

IT was wonderful to read that the Heart of Richmond charity has managed to deliver 14 new defibrillator sites across the town.

An extraordinary effort made possible by the generosity of residents and visitors donating cash and holding fundraisers in and around Richmond over the past two years – well done to all involved!

But I was also shocked to learn that medical equipment including defibs is still not exempt from government VAT.

When buying these lifesaving machines, local groups and charities face a 20 per cent charge on everything from the kit itself to the installation by the council.

It’s great that defibs are becoming more readily available, but the extra 20 per cent in VAT means that hundreds of pounds are added to the total cost of setting up a new site.

I’ve written to our MP Rishi Sunak to ask him to follow the example of the Irish government, which removed the cost of VAT on defibrillators across Ireland earlier this year.

It seems such an easy change to make, and as Prime Minister, Mr Sunak has the power to make it happen.

The more affordable defibrillators are, the more lives that can be saved.

Daniel Callaghan, Middleton Tyas, Liberal Democrat PPC.

Covid inquiry

AS the Covid inquiry progresses chickens are coming home to roost, confirming what many of us thought and said at that time.

Witness after witness has testified to the utter shambles, toxic atmosphere, lack of policy, habitual mendacity and lack of strategic leadership by senior politicians during that period.

This charge can be laid across the whole of the then cabinet, including my own MP Rishi Sunak.

Given that Mr Sunak is shortly to be called before the inquiry, the fact that he's lost, can't recover or recall the contemporary messages on his government provided phones is unfortunate to say the least.

How convenient that his own role in the weak and indecisive high-level decision-making of that time can now be blurred and open to post hoc massaging.

And how ironic that this savvy technocrat (and guru of AI) can't access the information on his own phones.

Despite the difficulties of recovering swift moving events at a distance of several years, one feature stands out in relation to Mr Sunak's role as Chancellor.

He deliberately chose to privilege and protect the economy against other considerations.

The social, epidemiological and public health consequences of that emphasis were clear then and even starker now.

Gus Pennington, Stokesley.

Fireworks impact

I FELT compelled to write after being subjected to the most horrendous noise of fireworks I have ever heard in my life.

Four hours of what seemed never ending barrages of loud booms and bangs.

I hope everyone who attended the fireworks display at the Applegarth in Northallerton enjoyed themselves.

Just spare a thought for those poor animals (including mine) who were absolutely terrified.

People who have young babies, the elderly, but more importantly people/war veterans that have seen active duty, (past and present) in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia etc (like my husband) who have PTSD, are still fighting wars in their heads.

They shouldn’t have to relive those horrible times they went through, the terrible atrocities that they all witnessed.

They are all having to relive those times every New Year and Bonfire Night.

Many people absolutely dread those up and coming celebrations year after year, for many they are reliving the trauma of war.

This is unacceptable, there is no room in this modern world for such celebrations.

Please remember that some people are still fighting wars in the world, we hardly need reminding of this.

The bottom line is fireworks should be banned, they create so much terror and instil violence in the young.

Please, please take some consideration for those people who are still fighting the battles of war in their heads, like my husband, the nightmares never stop, believe me.

Name supplied, Northallerton.

Ceasefire calls

THERE is now a considerable body of opinion calling for an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza.

Why am I, as someone with no particular affiliation to Israel and no wish for children to be blown up, not a part of this?

It is because I’m not prepared to be played by Hamas or incorporated in their game-plan.

The intensity of military response to the attacks of October 7 was highly predictable.

But it is hardly credible that Hamas saw the resulting harm to Palestinian civilians simply as a regrettable price worth paying to achieve some other effect that they want. It is the effect they want.

The purpose was to mobilise the Muslim world against Israel.

Unless we are to believe the passions of ordinary Muslims were expected to be inflamed to violence against Israel by the sight of slaughtered unarmed young Israeli civilians, we must conclude that it was slaughtered Palestinian civilians who were required.

Calls for a ceasefire seem to me at root no less cynical.

Sincere offers of a ceasefire seem unlikely unless and until Hamas itself, and not just Palestinian civilians, find themselves seriously threatened.

The desired situation is for the bombardment to continue against a backdrop of the world demanding that Israel stop. It is for Israel to be isolated.

This does suggest an Israeli interest in refusing to follow the path laid out for it by Hamas.

That as a matter for their own judgement.

In the long run, the more susceptible the outside world is to the wilful victimhood gambit, the more victims there will be.

John Riseley, Harrogate.

Horror of war

I DID not sleep last night. I haven’t slept for nearly a month.

Every time a plane goes past I listen for the explosions, are they near here?

Sometimes I want them to blow me up, I would have peace.

But I’m spared, ha ha, for more of the same today, tomorrow, how long more?

I know a few people who have died, or worse still have terrible injuries.

There was one who had an amputation in hospital without any anaesthetic.

Some people still have aspirin. I don’t know if he did.

The first day a succession of world leaders came to Israel to say go ahead. And so it did.

They all said they felt for us, every hurt we suffered was a tragedy. They never came back.

They sent a little humanitarian aid, but where is the humanity in all this?

All I want is somebody, anybody, to care.

If somebody cares, loves us, we could sleep.

Bombs and bullets shouldn’t be a part of anybody’s life, although for some people, too many people, they’re not, anymore.

Chris Pattison, Richmond.

Noise tolerance

I HAVE noticed the older a person gets the less they can stand loud noise.

Bonfire night reminded me of this, today there is noise everywhere from planes in the sky to road works everywhere. If you go in some shops loud music is playing, the only place I don’t mind the noise is in our back garden listening to the birds singing.

GO Wright, Sadberge.