Swale condition: The headline in the Darlington & Stockton Times (Feb 2) stated "Swale named as one of worst rivers for pollution". Really?

The Angling Trust is the source for this story. Volunteers conduct the water quality monitoring. The Angling Trust does not say the Swale is one of the worst. They say the "Swale, Ure, Nidd and Upper Ouse" catchment – along with eight other catchment areas – have the highest level of phosphate site averages sampled.

Any inference drawn from such a wide catchment area and volunteer selected sites needs to be carefully drawn. Generalisations can be misleading. And for clarity, the Anglers Trust report concerns pollution by phosphate not pollution or contamination in a general sense.

We should all be concerned about river water quality. More could be done. The river can and should be cleaner. The water companies have a lot to answer for.

For good reason, some pollution monitoring by Angling Trust volunteers is targeted at sewage plants. Discharges from combined storm overflows can pinpoint sources where action is required. But that aside, a focus on hotspots can skew the average for the river as a whole. Dilution from good flow in a river like the Swale can reduce phosphate pollution levels.

There is still phosphate pollution from agricultural run-off and leaching from groundwater to consider. However, evidence elsewhere does not support high levels of phosphate in the Swale away from water treatment works.

Other rivers may be cleaner. There may be local issues but the Swale has been misrepresented concerning its general condition.

NJL Gardener, Northallerton.

Teesworks report

I WATCHED the Parliamentary debate on the independent report resulting from the serious allegations of corruption at the old Redcar site, made in Parliament by the Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald.

I was glad to hear that these allegations were found to be groundless.

Fellow North East Labour MPs from Stockton, Easington, Newcastle and Sunderland didn't accept the report's findings, nor did they accept the rational answers given by the minister.

Like all debates they came with prepared notes and didn't appear to have either read or understood the report, being very selective in referencing it.

Meanwhile Look North carried an interview with Andy McDonald who made the scurrilous accusations in the first place. Naturally he didn't accept the report either.

Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, went as far as suggesting the report had been doctored and he like the rest, didn't accept the minister's reply.

On a point of order, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Sir Simon Clarke, who had earlier outlined the good work going on at the Redcar site, proposed that McDonald come to the house, apologise and thus correct Hansard.

MPs throughout the debate referred to Mr McDonald’s illness, which apparently didn't prevent him from giving the Look North interview!

The Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby denounced Mr McDonald's allegations and said the people of Middlesbrough deserve better than this man, a comment we who live in the area can all agree with.

Colin Hatton, Marton, Middlesbrough.

Review result

THE Teesworks review, commissioned by Conservative Michael Gove into the actions of Tory Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen and his Conservative supporting business friends, has exonerated them of the main charges of corruption.

Apparently all is hunky dory at Teesside Freeport, the brainchild of Conservative PM Rishi Sunak.

Should we really be surprised?

For those readers who've been closely following the stream of revelations about goings on at the former steelworks site and elsewhere, the verdict had an air of inevitability.

The Conservative government clearly believes spending nearly half a billion pounds of public money to help a very small number of business people become very rich is the right thing to do.

Do readers agree?

The review did call out the obsessive secrecy and lack of openness at the heart of the project. So I ask, why the cover ups about how our money is being used?

Why the legal threats to Middlesbrough MP, Andy McDonald when serious questions have been raised by a whole range of outlets, including the BBC?

Many of his accusations have been borne out by the report.

However Ben Houchen and the Conservative Party spin the report, Mr Houchen will go down as one of the most controversial figures in recent North East political history.

So, is Ben Houchen off the hook? No!

C Walker, Darlington.

Crime and punishment

MORE and more we see violent crime on our streets committed by young people.

When these people are apprehended, tried and sentenced, we should make the punishment fit the crime.

Instead of this we have a legion of do-gooders who tell us they need understanding and to be treated with kid gloves.

If we made the punishment unpleasant they would not want to go back in prison.

But instead they are given facilities that hundreds of thousands of working families and OAPs can only dream of.

This ranges from luxury hardware – such as television and computers – to menus that ordinary people could not afford to pay for in a restaurant.

Make these people work for their privileges and keep them locked up for the duration of the sentence they receive.

Do not let them live a life of luxury at the taxpayer’s expense.

T J Ryder, York.

Tight budget needed

THE announcement of the North Yorkshire Police 2024 budget for £201m is a substantial (plus 5.1 per cent) operational funding increase in these challenging financial times for families and pensioners.

It’s not long ago that the North Yorkshire Police budget was £165m and we had public police station building property service overheads to pay for.

However, the extra requests for additional funding support – £1m to support the Control Room at Fulford, £2m for specialist safeguard teams, and £1m for additional investigation teams – these are reoccurring annual costs to be funded every year.

This additional revenue budget support of £340,000 per month is very excessive in the current economic climate.

We need a tight, balanced budget this year as social services needs to be the special priority for extra funding capacity.

Or, is this the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Zoe Metcalfe bowing out with a "fond farewell" to her police service colleagues and passing the poisoned chalice on to the new mayor of York and North Yorkshire in 2025 for ongoing year-on-year funding support, as these are not one-off costs.

Cllr Carl Les needs to sharpen his budget review pencil.

M I Joyce, Northallerton.

Trees destruction

IT looks like the Darlington Labour council are going to destroy another patch of our green space, this time Blackwell’s historic parkland “Looking back” (D&S Times, Feb 2).

Trees that have survived for centuries will be ripped up all so the council can get their hands on a couple more properties at the highest council tax band.

One would have hoped that the not so magnificent seven Green Party councillors would have done something about this, but alas they are too busy pushing through council motions about the Gaza war, apparently in their eyes that is more important than actually protecting the environment.

Why are we surprised?

We were warned at the election that the Greens would do nothing to stop their socialist pals in Labour.

Perhaps the Green councillors should stop pretending to be part of the Model UN and do something that benefits the people of Darlington.

Michael Walker, Darlington.

Council profiteering

I AM utterly taken aback that the total destruction of ancient ridge and furrow fields, a Victorian building and the destruction of 43 important trees can, by any stretch of the imagination, be linked to the promise of good news (a public park).

It appears that Darlington council is in the enviable position of being able to grant itself planning permission, and as such, was happy to pass the plans.

This sends out a very clear message, namely that the destruction of natural habitats and historic landscape features is now perfectly acceptable to the majority in the name of profit.

Frankly, it is utterly shameful and an appalling reflection upon what society has become.

Finally, I would also be extremely surprised if Darlington's only Giant Fir survives more than a few years, trapped as a feature in a modern housing estate.

Susan Chipping, Catterick Garrison.

XL Bully dogs

FROM time immemorial we have moulded dogs to our own requirements.

As friends and pets. As working animals on farms and for security reasons. As hunting and racing for entertainment, or terriers for vermin control. But I can’t find any rhyme or reason for XL Bully dogs.

Far too big and strong to handle when angry, they’re oversized man-made freaks of nature.

In the latest tragic events I imagine the natural instincts of parents protecting their young “kicked in” .

Now with the deaths of two dogs the five remaining "puppies" must expect a bleak future of euthanasia, or a life permanently caged.

Any dog can bite or turn nasty, but few have the power to bring down a strong, fully grown man like an XL Bully can.

D M Deamer, York.