Railway points

THE points made by Steve Davies (D&S Times, Feb 9) regarding the need to be realistic about the future the Wensleydale Railway are long overdue.

The line lost its passenger services in 1954, a full decade before the infamous Beeching closures of the 1960s and well before the advent of motorways so the railway was uneconomic even before either of these factors came in to play.

What Steve doesn’t mention is that freight services were also progressively withdrawn in the 1950s and 60s, leaving only the limestone traffic from Redmire until that too ceased.

What many of those advocating the reinstatement of uneconomic lines such as the Wensleydale don’t grasp is that it was the freight traffic which sustained many of them, generating as much as 50 to 60 per cent of the total revenue. That traffic has gone and gone for ever.

In order for even well-established preserved railways such as the North Yorkshire Moors or Keighley & Worth Valley Railways to survive they need to generate passenger numbers well in excess of those prior to closure by British Railways to compensate for the lack of freight revenue.

The premise of a community railway failed to adequately recognise this. Further, the timetable of those days had the first train of the day leaving Leyburn mid-morning which was little use to those who wanted to go to work, school or college. Even then, passengers could only travel as far as Leeming Bar, so their onward journey was likely to be by bus which probably started from Leyburn anyway.

It is hardly surprising that trains ran empty, quite uneconomic, and a dispiriting scene for the volunteers who help to run the railway.

Another important factor is that the timetable had to run year round, including the winter months, which precluded the option of an annual shutdown for all important engineering work.

Steve is absolutely right in that the railway needs to focus on the tourist and heritage traffic if it is to survive and thrive.

As a member of the WRA since 1989 I can honestly say that this dose of realism is not before time.

John Young, Gilling West

Dales stance

ADVERTING to Steve Davies (D & S Times, Feb 9) who states that a strategic role for the future development of the Wensleydale Railway as a through route “is not supported by any officially endorsed data or political aspiration”: he is not quite correct.

Section BE6 railway-related development of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Local Plan - adopted in December 2016 - states: “Development that would prejudice the reinstatement of the Wensleydale Railway including operational land and station facilities, will not be permitted.”

The justification for this policy objective is that: “The National Park Management Plan supports the long term reinstatement of the Wensleydale Railway from Redmire to the ...Settle Carlisle Railway at Garsdale Station.

“ A fully or partly re-opened line may be expected to bring greater visitor spending and enhanced public enjoyment of Wensleydale....and encourage new business...through the provision of reopened stations, new visitor facilities, car parking, enhanced occupancy...of accommodation and greater use of local services.....the development works need not harm biodiversity...and the reopening of the line should deliver more enjoyment and understanding of the National Park by the public.”

The Local Plan realistically recognises: “The full reinstatement of the Wensleydale Railway is a very ambitious project that is likely to take longer than the 15 year Local Plan period. It therefore needs to be identified on the Local Plan Policies Map, and the route protected from alternative development that might otherwise prejudice it.”

Philip A Holder, Leyburn

Second homes

WHILE I very much agree with the thrust of Nigel Watson’s letter over a council tax increase for second home owners (D&S Times, Feb 9), he is wrong when he says the crisis has been building up for 30 years: it is longer.

I started to service the National Park committee in 1979. Officers were already discussing the problem and it was recognised there was a major issue because of the continual loss of housing stock to second and retirement homes. The difficulty must have been developing for some time even before then.

The committee looked towards restricting some new housing development for local people, but there was a major problem: there was no local plan, which would have dealt with housing amongst many other matters.

Accordingly, in relation to some new housing, including conversions, the committee then sought to try to control occupancy relying on policies in the National Park plan, but that document was essentially about conservation and allied matters.

One or two applicants agreed to enter into planning agreements to restrict occupancy, but others didn’t. Thus, cases went to appeal. Planning inspectors expressed sympathy with what the committee was trying to achieve, but said that, in the absence of supportive policy in a local plan, they had no option but to grant permission.

The committee eventually promoted its first local plan with policies seeking to provide housing for local people. Even then, some members refused to support the policies. There were objections from others, including local people. Some expressed general support, provided it was not near to where they lived. Others objected if they could see the potential development value of their own land being diminished.

The plan went through a long public inquiry. In my opening statement to the inspector, I said that if housing provision could not be made for young families, the park would eventually become a museum filled with old people and empty homes for much of the year. The inspector gave some support to the committee’s approach, but took the view that aspects had not been sufficiently researched and thought through.

However, while local plan policies for housing have developed since then, provision of new local housing is only one side of the coin. The other side is obviously the continuing loss of existing housing stock away from local people to second homes and the like. It is that loss over many years that has caused the problem.

As I see it, it is perfectly reasonable that the authority seeks to address the problem by a different route.

Perhaps those who take issue, might like to suggest other practicable means of achieving a remedy?

Mervyn Wilmington, Harmby

Leaving reasons

IT is a fact that people are leaving the Dales for a variety of reasons, not necessarily because they can’t afford to buy property.

How do I know?

I have two friends in York and both left their home parishes in the Dales because of a lack of things to do for young people.

If young people want nightclubs, cinemas, leisure centres and other amenities then large centres of population are the places to be.

There is always something to do in York and even my mother moved here aged 18 from Thirsk in the early 1950s.

One of my friends also cited job prospects in York as her chosen career would have meant a 40-mile return daily drive to and from Northallerton or else moving away, as she did.

Interestingly, neither of my friends can afford to buy here as the city is the north’s most expensive for property and subsequently both rent.

If huge hikes in council tax for second homes in the Dales ultimately results in falling house prices then the losers will all be home owners because if they ever sell up they will get less money for their property.

Dale Edwards, York

Modern crime

WITH reference to the article “Commissioner says force is overstaffed by up to 200 jobs (D&S Times, Feb 9).

The article contains references to “modern crime” and the “changing nature of crime attributed to North Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan.

What the commissioner failed to do was say just what modern crime was and how it differs from old crime.

Crime has always impacted on victims, a punch on the nose is no less painful today than it was a hundred years ago.

Likewise losing your life savings is no less traumatic if it happens over the internet rather than through the postal system.

I fear that what Julia Mulligan was actually trying to say was that the police will soon be cherry-picking what crime they will and won’t deal with and calling it progress.

Timothy Wood, Guisborough

Pavement parking

I HAVE been contacted by yet more of your readers in support of my letters about the unacceptability of cars parked on footpaths.

I have been told that at a meeting some weeks ago called to discuss the chaotic parking in the vicinity of the new police HQ in Northallerton a police inspector told residents that it is alright to park on footpaths if sufficient space is left for a double buggy. This was rubbish. It would still be illegal.

Even if space for a double buggy had been left than that would not have been sufficient room for me and my elderly blind father to have walked side by side as we were entitled. Most drivers parking on footpaths do not leave room for a double buggy anyway.

It is obvious that in most cases parking on the footpath does not make passage of motorists on the road any better. If proof were needed then it is to be found in those roads where a grass verge abuts the road, not a footpath. Most drivers (but unfortunately not all) do not park on verges to avoid cutting up the grass. If parking off the road can be avoided where there is a grass verge then it can be avoided where there is no grass verge.

Parking on footpaths used to be the exception but now, as a result of police failures to act, it has become the rule. Indeed many motorists seem to think it is expected of them even if it is to the detriment of those entitled to use the footpaths unimpeded, including parents with pushchairs, the blind and those otherwise disabled. The situation can only have been made worse by silly statements that it is alright if room is left for a double buggy.

Roads are for vehicles – footpaths are for pedestrians. Police should ensure that vehicles are not parked on footpaths, especially vehicles parked by their own staff.

David Severs, retd police chief superintendent, Northallerton

Unicorn option?

THE news for the North- East from the Government’s own Department for Brexit is getting glummer by the moment.

Following the agreement to pay a divorce bill of tens of billions, agreeing to keep paying our full membership fees for two more years, and having to accept open borders during that period, we find out that the £40bn annual credit for leaving is offset by a £124bn of losses.

While the London area loses little the biggest loser is the North-East, expected to suffer a between 16-20 per cent loss of business and jobs.

On the BBC Radio 4 This Weekend programme the major item was with these probable effects of Brexit upon the North-East.

The only optimistic view came from the Conservative Mayor of Tees Valley who claimed all would be well if we negotiated membership of “a Customs Union”. Like most other claims, demands, ambitions and promises of Brexit promoters, this is just a “Unicorn Option” - a wonderful fancy that just doesn't exist. Frictionless borders are not on the table in Northern Ireland if we leave “the Customs Union” nor are driving licences, nor visa-free travelling abroad. Tariff-free trade is not on the table outside the single market - single means “not plural”.

Having the benefits of membership of the EU without incurring the normal membership costs is not on the table either. The EU states and their spokesmen have made all of these points abundantly and repeatedly clear, but Brexit supporters the Mail, Express and Telegraph ignore these in favour of ambitions that are just fantasy.

As with all divorces, the claimed benefits look great till the terms, the solicitors’ bills, loneliness, child sadness and hard realities of funding and running separate homes and families kick in.

It was a sensible option when faced with the predictable effects of prolonged austerity in the North-East to look for a better option. But as the evidence of even more dire consequences for our region mount, we had better start to take note of the sat nav that keep telling us to “do an about turn at the next possible opportunity”.

Dr John Gibbins, Sowerby

Filthy country

WHEN it comes to litter, we are a filthy country; selfish and devoid of community spirit.

The government should launch a serious national campaign, properly resourced and backed by draconian sanctions, to make litter louts see the error of their ways and take their litter home.

At this time of year, when all the leaves have gone, we see the discarded rubbish at its worst. What must foreigners think when they drive down the A19, or along the A174, through East Cleveland? Disgusting! And, local authorities can no longer afford to keep on top of the problem.

Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon etc. should revive David Cameron’s concept of the Big Society and ask the public to help clear up the mess, particularly in their own streets, estates and villages.

The population of the UK is approximately 66m. If each of us undertook to pick up just one item of litter a day, the country would be clean in a week and if only half our citizens took part, it would take just a fortnight.

Cllr Steve Kay, Moorsholm

Plane talking

WHAT became of Teesside Airport?

It changed its name and then we couldn’t fly to Cyprus.

Living in Northallerton is difficult to fly to Cyprus – we go to Newcastle, which is a wonderful airport, by taxi.

If we could go from Teesside as we used to it would be much better or we could go to Leeds or Manchester – longer journey still.

I think the operators at Durham Tees Valley Airport do not deserve money unless it will be a real airport again with aircraft flying regularly to holiday destinations and not via Amsterdam.

Is this the airport for the Northern Powerhouse?

Pauline Kemp, Northallerton

Plastic oceans

ABOUT seven years ago following a BBC report that there were millions of tons of discarded plastic circulating in the Pacific Ocean I wrote to William Hague my then-MP suggesting that the Government should ban single-use plastic bags particularly from our supermarkets. The reply was that the Government preferred to persuade rather than dictate.

Today we are told that the plastic is not just in the Pacific but also the Atlantic and now the Arctic oceans. The plastic is being broken down into small pieces and is being digested by all species and by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

I put it to you that Governments have to sit down and come up with a solution.

In Norway citizens are rewarded financially for recycling plastic bottles and to make recycling easier only certain types of plastic can be used. The UK recycling efforts is largely ridiculed as being ineffective, China for example is now going to stop accepting our plastic for recycling.

The Government is like a rabbit caught in the headlights - it is fixated for the foreseeable future on Brexit and is unable to show direction at home but also to the rest of the world on how to solve this important issue.

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham

Road repairs

I SEE from the national press that local and national councils are to be given ''£1.1m per mile for motorways and major A-roads while local councils will get £21,000 per mile to maintain their roads.”

I look forward to Stokesley High street being repaired. The centre of the road is getting wider as the pot holes get deeper. North Road, in my humble opinion, should be completely dug up and resurfaced, not just a few pot holes filled in. Plus the speed bumps are rapidly falling apart. The road should then be made a one-way system with entry from Stanley Grove. The buses use it one way so no problem there. Station Road is another disgrace, giving a bone jarring ride from start to end.

I admit that the roads named are of high traffic volume but that is no excuse for local or national councils to neglect their road systems. With more houses being built in the Stokesley area, over 300 so far, the volume will certainly increase over the coming months.

Derek Whiting, Stokesley

Going backwards

IN relation to the lady having difficulty reversing onto the road (D&S Times, Feb 9), this situation is easily resolved.

It is much easier reversing into a parking space from the road and then driving out forwards. You have control of the road when reversing in.

It is hazardous reversing onto a road and this should not be done.

If you drive out forwards, it is much easier to filter in, and you will be able to see any pedestrians in front of your car, whereas reversing out you might not.

Also please tell drivers it is an offence to use fog lamps illegally. Many seem to use them as a matter of course, in normal conditions, which creates a dazzling effect for drivers travelling in the opposite direction, with four lights shining rather than two.

Fog lamps can only be used when visibility is seriously reduced, which does not mean in the dark. The clue is in the word “fog”. See advice in the Highway Code, which is full of information to help improve driving.

Tom Briddock, Swainby

Challenge 50

I AM a great fan of marking “significant” ages in a positive way, to celebrate being alive and, thankfully, being healthy. This year I am turning 50 and rather than throwing a big party I’ve decided to celebrate in a way that benefits other people.

So throughout 2018 I will be completing “Challenge 50” - 50 different challenges on 50 different days to raise £10,000 for Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity, the most incredible charity that supports over 2,300 families with a seriously ill child in England.

This February, to tie in with Valentine’s Day, my challenge is to encourage the public to join me in a small act of kindness by donating the cost of a Valentine’s bunch of flowers or box of chocolates to Rainbow Trust. Hence this letter.

Just £10 could pay for a sensory toy to help Rainbow Trust Family Support Workers entertain a seriously ill child with special needs, giving their parents a much-needed break.

To make a donation please visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ZillahBingley because small gestures of kindness really make a huge difference to families caring for a child with a life-threatening condition.

Zillah Bingley, Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity