Planning approval: North Yorkshire Council recently approved a planning application for 33 houses on agricultural land in Great Ayton.

The council notified 26 households of this application, but over 257 objections were sent to the council with 14 supporting. Of the 14 supporting, less than half live in the village.

The site is not allocated for development on the current Local Plan. Despite this, the planning officer recommended approval and I attended the Planning Committee meeting at which a vote was taken by the five councillors and chairman. It was a split vote with the chairman carrying it.

This application has been under discussion with the council and proposed developers for 18 months. The 28-page Planning Committee report recommending approval was sent to the objectors on December 6 notifying them of the Planning Committee meeting on the December 14, giving them eight days’ notice in the build-up to Christmas.

At the Planning Committee meeting, the planning officer gave a half hour presentation in favour of development and the developer also stated the case in favour in a three minute slot. Those against were given three minutes to present the case against.

I was dismayed at the lack of attention paid by the committee to, even ignorance of, the considerable number of objections submitted from Great Ayton residents.

Very few of the arguments against were addressed, despite most of these arguments being based on the current Local Plan and observations by a previous Government inspector in 2016.

North Yorkshire Highways (NYH) have recommended that Station Road is reduced to a single file, by residential parking, to accommodate the entrance to the site. This road is the only southern highway access to Gribdale Car Park, Captain Cook’s monument – a significant tourist attraction, and the very popular Fletchers Farm Restaurant, but NYH say that it will not affect the local highway network. It is reduced to single file traffic for goodness sake!

One of the points made against the previous Government inspector's view that this site should not be developed was that it was based on a Local Plan in force during 2016.

This plan was superseded in 2022, and this one is due to be superseded by yet another plan, this time by NYC, later this year.

The 2022 plan had no relevant geographical differences to the one in 2016, indeed it showed that Hambleton District Council, as was, had met its house building requirement up to 2035. The committee again appeared to dismiss this.

Whilst accepting that there may be a need for house-building in some parts of the country, this part of North Yorkshire is not one of them.

It seems to me that the current NYC are hell-bent on following an agenda dictated by central government as the current planning policies are weighed so much in favour of development at the expense of local needs, opinions, and indeed the Local Plan at that time.

Where a majority opinion is expressed and supported with valid arguments, if they are dismissed so readily, fail to be addressed, or no rationale behind the vote explained, it makes the whole decision-making process opaque and suspect.

In turn those constituents will fail to see any point in contributing to local government policy, or giving credibility to any Local Plans that seem to be totally ignored or become meaningless. Indeed, what is the point of producing another Local Plan?

Dave Greer, Great Ayton.

More homes

IN just one 30-day period between December 10, 2023 and January 10, 2024 in three planning meetings Darlington Borough Council have approved the construction of almost 2,000 new houses.

According to Michael Gove, a town of Darlington's size should be approving 455 new homes each year.

In days gone by, building on this scale would require statutory approval and the setting up of a Newtown authority to oversee construction.

What is going on at Darlington Borough Council?

Nigel Boddy, Darlington.

System failings

I HAVE been reading extensively about the Post Office Horizon Scandal and I find that Tony Blair, Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, was warned in 1998 by a special advisor Geoff Mulgan that the Horizon system supplied by Fujitsu was “probably flawed” and was failing to meet “good industry practice”, this was before it was rolled out.

What I have learned in my career is that to investigate something it is essential to have at least a basic knowledge about the subject, in this case computer programming, something I think that is beyond the capabilities of any of our politicians.

We now need a forensic examination of who knew what at this time. I think that it was finally rolled out so not to antagonise Japan but also because of the high cost that had already been paid out and to start again would be embarrassing and hopefully, fingers crossed, what had been reported would not happen.

Politics is a funny thing, here we are 25 years later, the truth is finally out and all politicians of all political parties are running for cover.

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham.


YOUR editorial comment about the Post Office scandal, highlights an era whereby the bright young things with their management degrees etc. have been no doubt versed in avoidance culture. “IT versus humanity” (D&S Comment, Jan 5).

I was accountable as a team leader/manager such that I was prepared to take responsibility for my decisions/actions.

I firmly believe that those responsible for this debacle should be accountable and financial penalties in the form of a minimal severance/redundancy payout and dismissal highlighting professional misconduct, plus a drastically reduced non-indexed pension.

Ken Walsh, Tunstall, Richmond.

Worry about AI

WE are rightly concerned at the miscarriage of justice that has occurred with regard to those thousands of lives ruined by the Post Office scandal.

It is important to see beyond the particulars to the causes of this scandal. Yes, there are many examples of human misconduct in this affair, but there is also another issue.

As things stand, the law assumes that computers are reliable, and the burden of proving that this may not be true is on the defendant, even in cases where access to critical information may be in the hands of the accuser.

In the Post Office scandal, sub-postmasters and subpostmistresses were unable to defend themselves because they had neither the information nor the resources to prove the computer software was at fault. As the world becomes ever more reliant on software and AI, the law must be changed.

For example, should a human be thrown in prison when the on-board computer on a car malfunctions and causes an accident?

If end users are to be held accountable, and if software failures can be hidden from public scrutiny, what is the motivation for manufacturers to produce safe and reliable products?

Christian Vassie, York.

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PO injustice

ANOTHER aspect in the Post Office scandal which perhaps has not been looked into is the part the judicial system played.

The sub-postmasters were not convicted under the criminal system, ie, the police and CPS, but civil.

They were convicted by district judges.

It makes you wonder if perhaps these judges were culpable as well or perhaps capable to deal with the complexity of the cases before them.

Thomas Ball, Barnard Castle.

Fluoride concerns

I SEE water fluoridation is being promoted for Stockton and Middlesbrough “Health officials make case for fluoride” (D&S Times, Dec 22).

It is not needed, and has capacity to hurt people, including myself.

Indeed, your sister paper, The Northern Echo, published a letter from me on September 20, 2018 titled ‘Water supplies’ where I described what Hartlepool’s fluoridated water did to me (I had constant nausea, for one).

Since then, I have done some research on fluoridation and the more I know, the more I worry.

Dr Kamini Shah and Professor Peter Kelly have plenty to say, so they might like to comment on these humble observations.

For a town that has been artificially fluoridated since 1968, tooth decay in Gateshead’s five-year-olds (measured in 2022) is stubbornly high, rising fast since 2017. It is now 29 per cent higher than the national average. Carrying on at this rate, it will soon overtake un-fluoridated Middlesbrough, and fluoridated Gateshead could then have the highest decay index in the North East.

Middlesbrough’s decay index is falling fast, and in 2022 is only about two per cent higher than Gateshead.

Un-fluoridated Stockton has the second-lowest decay index, and is currently only about four per cent higher than the joint leaders, Northumberland (about 32 per cent fluoridated), and fully-fluoridated North Tyneside, which is also the least-deprived area in the North East, unlike Stockton.

Dr Shah, Stockton’s tooth decay index in 2022 was indeed “better” than the national average. It was 27 per cent lower, falling rapidly since 2015, when it virtually equalled the national average.

Even if it worked, fluoride is never going to prevent what Dr Shah calls “a mouth full of caries”. This is incisor decay, caused by constant exposure to sugary liquids.

Some parents give a bottle of this junk to the child as a soothing nightcap, and I’ve seen a mother doing it in a dentist’s waiting room.

Please leave Teesside’s water alone, which will protect those who may be allergic to fluoride (like myself), but really pay attention to fluoridated Gateshead.

They obviously need your urgent help. For information on how to defend your family from fluoride contamination and harms, and respond to any upcoming public consultation, please go to North East Water Fluoridation Concerns at

John Hunton, Stockton-on-Tees.

Restaurant closure

IT was sad to read your article regarding, due to personal circumstances and ill health, the closure of Blagraves shop and restaurant, “Sadness as Blagraves closure revealed” (D&S Times, Jan 12).

My wife and I were regular diners at Blagraves during the period Elizabeth and Ken Marley were owners and prior to that.

Although we live in Darlington, it was always a pleasure to drive there for an excellent meal.

We always, along with family and friends always rated the restaurant the best in the North East.

We, truly hope, with no disrespect to Eleanor and her mother Louise that the new occupiers convert it back to a full restaurant and the original and cosy environment as it was in previous years.

W & N Browne, Darlington.

Shopper decline

YOUR story about free parking leading to a decline in the number of shoppers visiting Darlington was one of the least surprising stories I have read, “Footfall drops” (D&S Times, Jan 12).

We all knew this would happen when Labour decided to increase our cost of living by forcing car park fees on us, it was obvious.

Labour lied to us at the local elections when they promised us they would cut our cost of living, only to bring back parking charges, increase council tax and cancel the South Park fireworks, all things which mean the hardworking people of Darlington have to dig deeper into their pockets.

Why don’t Labour care about their voters?

Michael Walker, Darlington.