Moving forward

YOUR comment headlined Moving Forward and the letter from N. Smith, of Brompton (D&S Times, October 27) about Northallerton were thought provoking.

I walked from Argos to Specsavers yesterday and in that short space counted ten empty premises not including a plethora of charity shops.

The grinning Hambleton District Council chief executive Justin Ives and Wykeland MD Dominic Gibbons would indeed be well advised to look at the amount of empty retail outlets and remember that not all “progress” is positive.

We have a lovely market town and High Street with some exceptional independent traders. Visitors come from far and wide to see and appreciate its natural charm and, dare I say, old worldliness.

Why do we have to become yet another homogenised unremarkable town centre surrounded by shopping arcades bursting with chain stores selling the same goods from Penzance to Peterhead.

On a practical note where are all these extra thrill seeking new visitors going to park?

Mr Gibbons is looking forward to delivering this “very exiting scheme”. I wonder how many others are eagerly awaiting it?

M.J Semain, West Rounton

Cultural offer

THE comments regarding Northallerton in N. Smith's letter (D&S Times, October 27) struck a chord with me. It's not only in the cultural sphere that the town is lacking. My mother-in-law, on her first visit, summed it up: "What kind of a town is this? There isn't even a place to take the children to feed the ducks!”

However, there are some signs of a modest cultural revival, with The Forum developing its programme, and with private sector efforts such as Joe Cornish Gallery and Better Dayze vinyl records, and even the odd pop-up gallery in one of the vacant High Street shops your correspondent refers to.

Towns need to reinvent themselves and it is to be hoped that the prison redevelopment will perhaps expand and develop the "cultural offer" (excuse the phrase), to create a more balanced town centre that is not almost wholly devoted to shopping.

Tony Robinson, Northallerton

Bus services

TOMORROW will be the last Saturday on which a bus service will operate between Leyburn and Bedale or Bedale and Leyburn.

It is unacceptable that there should be no public bus service at all between these two market towns – especially as this is the central connecting section in a much longer 40-mile route from Upper Wensleydale to our county town, Northallerton.

There are many reasons why people travel by bus, including the excellent “one-way, one pound” fare which is so useful for young people on non-school days.

The service is also useful for shopping (including Christmas shopping), visiting patients in the Friarage, travelling to or from Northallerton station, attending work or local events and days or meals out.

Alas, no longer if one needs to travel between Bedale and Leyburn by public transport on any Saturday after tomorrow.

I believe it is now time to find long-term solutions that will overcome the various (acknowledged) policy and financial hurdles that have caused the impending loss of this service.

Councillors, traders and caterers: Will you take an interest in helping to resolve this particular problem? After all, passengers are your voters and customers.

Ruth Annison, Askrigg

Safe height

I AM concerned that Darlington Borough Council is opening itself up to claims of compensation from pedestrians, should a vehicle mount the pavement and injure them.

This relates to Park Lane, but its actions regarding resurfacing may affect other roads as well.

Government advice states that the minimum safe height of kerbs to protect pedestrians on footpaths next to roads in urban areas is 75mm, with normal heights of between 120 and 150mm.

Park Lane no longer has any part of the road reaching the minimum, with much being just 10mm.

Although this is not a legal requirement, civil law does not require it for an action to be taken against the authority.

It only requires the authority to turn a blind eye, to what a member of the public may consider reasonable, for them to lose an action.

Given what has been held to be the minimum safe height for decades, it would be surprising if the council is not faced with potentially substantial claims in the future.

On October 23, some 15 per cent of vehicles were parked on the kerb when they could not judge where the road edge was, something I have never seen in Park Lane before.

One of the engineers, who resurfaced the road, said he was surprised that the council had taken the cheap way out, and not removed the old surface first.

Norman Webber, Darlington

Give us a clue

DESPITE closely following the Brexit negotiations and reading the Prime Minister’s recent statement, I haven’t the slightest idea of the full implications and costs of leaving the EU.

I recently asked Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond, whether the public should be consulted through a second referendum when the outcome of Brexit is clear and understood.

His response was that there would be no second referendum.

Apparently he would prefer his constituents to remain uninformed and confused when it comes to the most important decision this country faces.

Surely, people have every right to think again. David Davis was absolutely right when he said that if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.

Michael J Thomsett, Osmotherley

Raccoon dogs

I WAS most interested to read about the strange animals seen near Leighton Reservoir recently (D&S Times, October 20).

About six or seven years ago I was travelling home down Wensleydale late one Saturday night along the A6108 towards Masham, when near Mile House Farm and the gravel quarries at the other side of the road I saw some animals playing in the road.

There were two adults and three or four juveniles. I stopped as I thought at first they were a family of badgers. But the more I looked the more I was certain they were something else, but what?

Clearly they had a sort of 'face mask'. My mind ran through a possible list: Pine Marten? Pole Cat? Mink? They were bigger than a mink but smaller than a badger.

They continued to tumble about on the tarmac but when I lowered the window the whole family scampered off into the nearby field on the Ellingstring side of the road.

The next week I phoned the gamekeeper on the Swinton Estate to report the incident and see if he knew what the animals were. He was baffled but bearing in mind the number of game birds he was nurturing on the estate he was rather hoping they were none of the above mentioned. He would keep an eye open.

I heard nothing more and have not met anyone else who has seen anything remotely similar. That is until your item in the paper. Your photo looked amazingly like the animals I had seen. I didn't even know there were such things as raccoon dogs. We live and learn!

However, in six years I think most things on four legs could reach Leighton from Mile House Farm.

It is amazing what lives around the Masham area. I hardly dare mention that on a trip down along that same bit of road but nearer the Jervaulx ice cream parlour a year or two before, I saw the Ellingstring 'black panther'.

The only person I mentioned this to was Bryan Moore at the ice cream parlour. I really thought the other friends would think I had been enjoying too much of the products of the Masham breweries!

But that black panther I really did see, crossing the road in a big cat-like leap, tail stretched out behind it, and about the size of a large Alsatian dog.

Jane Bastow, Wath

Conservation area

HOW uplifting it was to read the article 'Conservation status for village' (D&S Times, October 20), relating to the announcement that the southern part of Sessay is set to be granted this special status by Hambleton District Council, after the community spent five years researching the history of the village. The residents are to be congratulated for their sterling effort.

Sessay Parish Councillor, Darren Ratcliffe is quoted in the newspaper (and indeed on Hambleton District Council's website), stating: “Achieving conservation area status provides a level of protection for what our community values, and will help to preserve this for future generations.”

As a resident of Newby Wiske – a village also designated as a conservation area by Hambleton District Council back in 1985 – I wish I could wholeheartedly agree with Mr Ratcliffe's statement. However, as many of your readers will be aware, the residents of Newby Wiske and surrounding villages are currently engaged in a battle against a planning application in relation to the Grade II Listed Newby Wiske Hall and surrounding parkland.

If the Newby Wiske Hall planning application is granted, it will be flying in the face of the protection that the residents thought a conservation area afforded, and HDC might as well tear up the conservation area designation for Newby Wiske, and for Sessay too (before it is granted), because it won’t be worth the paper it is written on.

I wonder - do the good people of Sessay realise that they may not have the protection they seek from unwelcome development, but that they will have to apply for planning permission every time they want to prune a dead branch from a tree in their own property?

Carol Bowe, Newby Wiske