Planning system: The Darlington and Stockton Times carried a long letter from Great Ayton resident David Greer about a North Yorkshire planning meeting at which approval was given for over 30 new houses on the School Farm site at Great Ayton (Planning approval, D&S Times Jan 19).

This site was the subject of a bitter dispute with local residents about four years ago when it was rejected by Hambleton planning committee (it was and is still outside the development framework approved by the former Hambleton Council).

It was taken to appeal and an inspector upheld the refusal on various grounds, including problems with access onto the narrow Station Road but mainly, I suppose, because it was not in the Local Plan.

Now the developers have applied again and, with the support of North Yorkshire planning department, it has been approved by the casting vote of the chairman as the voting was tied.

The local county councillor Heather Moorhouse and Great Ayton Parish Council were strongly against the application.

What concerns me is that this may well be an indication that North Yorkshire Council is going to start ignoring the former development plans made by the previous councils and seems hell bent on spending thousands of pounds on adopting one of their own.

The danger, of course, is that all the old inappropriate planning proposals which were rejected under the development framework will now see a green light to start again as they may well think that it is now open season.

This regime under the new county council was foreseen as a likely problem, together with the fact that parish councils now seem to have a minimal influence.

Gordon Hetherington, Great Ayton.

Cynical sincerity

HAS anyone else had a “light-bulb moment” about the Conservatives’ reaction to ITV’s excellent “Mr Bates vs The Post Office”?

Suddenly, Rishi Sunak is being all warm and sincere to sub-postmasters and postmistresses.

Many ministers and MPs have discovered their consciences and are saying: “Isn’t it all a terrible scandal.”

Even that paragon of virtue, Lee Anderson, has called on Sir Ed Davey to make a public apology for his failings.

Typical cynical deflection tactics. You would think there was an election coming.

Of course, it is a sorry tale of successive governments, but do remember that the Conservatives have been in power for 14 years, or longer if you add in the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.

Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office accused thousands staff of theft, fraud and false accounting based on information from its Horizon IT system rolled out in the late 1990s.

Hundreds were prosecuted, despite the Post Office knowing from 2010 that there were faults in the system.

We all know ministers are generals who lead their regiments from behind, so who advised them all during this sorry excuse for a government, and who authorised a CBE for Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells in 2019?

The scandal is shameful but we must not allow it to become a strategy of the government and the right-wing media to turn the Prime Minister, and his MPs, into knights in shining armour restoring justice to the innocent victims.

Do not forget that this government has not compensated the blood scandal families, the Windrush and Grenfell victims or the betrayed WASPI women.

Terence Fleming, Guisborough.

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Next scandal?

NATIONAL governments and large corporations are prone to covering up mismanagement, incompetence and potential scandals.

The present, long running battle to uncover the truth about the Post Office’s brutal treatment of sub-postmasters is merely the latest example in a long line of similar outrages.

Politicians and corporate leaders repeatedly conspire to suppress information and to divert blame.

Many readers will remember past difficulties in extracting the truth about the use of thalidomide and Factor Eight contaminated blood in the NHS.

Currently, we await reports about the use of unsuitable cladding material in the Grenfell fire disaster and the failure to recognise the rights of householders subjected to HS2 compulsory purchase orders.

Meanwhile, we live surrounded by other egregious examples of political miscalculation such as the lack of a properly funded national flood defence system and the systemic failure of our water companies to ensure our rivers and seas are sewage free.

Potholes in our roads pale in significance against these last two examples of long standing neglect, mismanagement and lack of political will.

Are we no longer capable as a nation of solving these kinds of issues?

Has short-term political posturing replaced longer term strategic planning?

Are shareholder dividends, company profits and the pursuit of private wealth to be the prime motivators of action?

A decade or more of impoverished political decision making, the lack of a vision for the public realm and a paucity of leadership looks and feels like this.

The coming general election provides an opportunity to review these kinds of issues and to find a balance between the core questions: what’s good for me and what’s good for my community.

In essence these questions are two sides of the same coin.

Gus Pennington, Stokesley.


READING Rishi Sunak’s column in last week’s D&S Times (Jan 19) I find he is concerned due to bank closures about people’s access to hard cash, as opposed to using debit cards.

However, after also reading the Personnel Today journal, it seems he need not worry.

Apparently redundancies across the nation were predicted by them to rise from 154,000 in August 2022 to 237,000 in 2023.

Part of the reason is the Bank of England’s interest rate rise from 0.1 per cent in December 2021 to 4.99 per cent in 2023.

The confederation of British Industry states that retail activity (spending on the high street) is at its lowest level since March 2021.

The Retail Gazette reports that 15,000 jobs were lost in 2023 in the retail trade, redundancies made by such notables as Asda, Tesco, M&Co and Wilko.

This is not confined to the high street, online giant Not On The High Street also contributed to those job losses.

Manufacturing in the region is not left unscathed either. We all know about those.

Meanwhile Lianhetech (formerly Fine Organics) Seal Sands is to make some 120 personnel redundant.

Then of course nationally it seems the Government’s policy on manufacturing is further laid bare, as 3,000 people are told that they are unemployed with the end of steel manufacture in Wales, as in Redcar.

So, Mr Sunak, fiddling around the edges with promises of access to cash may provide brief respite from the realities we all face, but in the end you know the result just as we do.

Put simply, we will not have the cash to access.

Roll on November.

Richard Baker, Middleton One Row.

High street banks

IT’S desperately important that we don’t let face-to-face banking disappear, for our health and that of our communities.

My own bank (NatWest) has been closed for some years now.

If I have a need for a face-to-face visit, I need to take the bus to Malton.

With the bus services diminishing, this could turn out to be a day trip!

Whereas a bank in my main street would provide a walk into the town, interaction with bank employees, and maybe greeting other friends and acquaintances on the way.

And I’ve walked out in the fresh air! Why can’t the big banks get together to avoid their disappearance from our high streets?

Maybe the “main” ones could amalgamate a service in one building.

Save jobs, save empty buildings, maintain a vital face-to-face personal service. We’re not all mobile (don’t have the ability to travel to another town), IT literate (get easily frustrated with telephone calls and trying to get to the right person first time around), and we do still need cash in our pockets. Our society is disappearing behind our own front doors.

Ann Bowley, Pickering.

Gaza hostilities

WE were told recently that the hostilities between Hamas and Israel have been going on for 100 days.

That is not correct, it has been going on since 1946.

Now Gaza exists entirely at the whim of Israel, they have no airport, sea port and apart from a few fruits that grow there everything has to be imported via Israel or Egypt and this is how it has always been, the Palestinians quite rightly I think do not like that.

Neither The Gaza Strip nor the West Bank are registered as independent countries in the United Nations but are part of Israel, so the residents in these countries have representation at the UN at the whim of Israel.

Until the United Nations and relevant countries sit down and understand that there is a problem, this will not be resolved and the problems – and those with Iran and Yemen – will continue to grow larger.

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham.

Blinding lights THE last few months when out driving in the dark I noticed that my eyes were often dazzled by oncoming traffic. I thought it was my glasses until I read an article from the RAC about new LED lights that are causing this issue.

I am told the problem has been reported to the Department of Transport to sort it out, so I don’t need new glasses.

GO Wright, Sadberge.