Pesky mink

I LIVE in a small rural village where until last summer we had a thriving hedgehog population.

However mink have become an increasingly prominent feature here, with sightings and several attacks on cats.

I first encountered a mink nest here about 20 years ago on the bank of a stream. Years later I saw in daylight a mink crossing a bridge over a stream, less than a mile from the site of the mink nest.

In July 2013 one of my cats came home late one night with a broken front leg. The bone had been bitten through. The vet considered this to be a mink bite. Thereafter, several cats from the village disappeared.

On June 21, 2017, whilst walking my dogs at 11pm I met a mink coming up the road, just yards from my house.

When I advised a friend in the village, she confirmed having seen a mink earlier that evening as she shut her hens in.

In August 2017 I found a dead juvenile mink just outside my property. It had been run over.

Again in August myself and my neighbour heard an unidentifiable squealing noise at about 5pm. Neither of us could find anything to explain it. Days later I remember reading that hedgehogs squeal in terror or pain.

I had been feeding two hedgehogs on my driveway all summer. A friend in the village had also been regularly feeding five hedgehogs.

It was around August/September when my two hedgehogs stopped coming and the other five gradually disappeared.

Then in autumn 2017 two more cats from the village were taken to the vets with mink bites.

As spring approaches we can only hope our hedgehogs will return but their untimely disappearance leaves us in doubt.

In my opinion mink have been overlooked as a cause of hedgehog decline in rural areas and I think the time has come for action to reduce the mink population.

Margaret Handley, Boltby


IT was interesting to read that Hambleton District Council now believes there is a direct correlation between incidences of fly-tipping construction waste and tyres and the introduction of charges by North Yorkshire County Council for disposing of these materials at their recycling sites (D&S Times, Feb 16). When NYCC introduced swingeing charges to householders for the disposal of construction waste (rubble, soil plasterboard etc) over three years ago, recycling levels for these materials dropped significantly.

Site staff confirmed that waste skips which previously needed emptying several times a week were now half-empty and collected only infrequently.

The obvious conclusion to draw was that these materials were being fly-tipped and clearly nothing has changed since then. A similar thing happened when charges for tyre disposal were introduced last year.

For some time I have been trying to obtain information from NYCC about the consequences of their charging policy and they have consistently denied any link between charges and fly-tipping.

If it’s costing Hambleton Council £44,000 to clear up fly-tipping how much is it costing county-wide?

Our county council should be encouraging us all to recycle. Unfortunately, the introduction of deterrents such as charging for the disposal of small amounts of DIY construction waste and tyres has the opposite effect. It is counter-productive environmentally and financially.

It may also be illegal because the Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed that legislation introduced in 2015 bans councils from charging for the disposal of household waste generated by DIY.

Let’s hope that our county council will have the common-sense to reverse its ill-judged decision as soon as possible.

John Warren, Ripon

Tax alternative

MERVYN Wilmington asks for alternative ideas for creating affordable housing for young families, rather than taxing second home owners (D&S Times, Feb 16).

There is already a well-established precedent for bridging the affordability gap between what a young couple can raise as mortgage plus deposit, and the full cost of a property. This involves using shared equity, in which the money – in this instance – would come from a local housing fund or local authority.

The advantages of a shared equity are:

• Funds can be specifically targeted at young families;

• The local authority has the money;

• Funds can apply equally to new-build, existing properties or conversions, which fits well within a National Park;

• Money gets re-cycled into the pot on sale of property or “staircasing” so the fund builds up over time.

The main requirement to make the scheme work properly is that no interest or rent is charged on the equity portion which would otherwise make the scheme unaffordable.

Dr Peter Annison, Askrigg

Speed cameras

I WISH to protest about the disgraceful underhand way speed cameras are used. It’s an obvious money-making racket.

Some of these vans are secretly located in areas where there are no risks to anyone - ie clear open country roads or the last 200 yards leaving town or village – and then motorists are nabbed for being five or 10 mph over the national limit.

These operators should be ashamed of themselves for the devious underhand way they operate. Do the police not realize what they are doing - creating a loathing for themselves by the motorist?

These traps are never outside schools or local rat-runs but only where the average motorist speeds up a little.

As a van driver caught at 61mph on a clear, open country road - not a great speed in today’s modern vehicles - I would challenge whoever is in charge to drive a modern light commercial vehicle at 50mph on single carriageways for a long period with places to go and things to do. You will soon touch 60mph

So please ease up on these easy trap areas and put these vans in known blackspots only.

Christopher Thompson, Northallerton

Police parking

WITH reference to the article “Police to study impact of parking in town” (D&S Times, Feb 16).

While having some empathy for anyone who out of necessity has to drive to work I cannot help but be amused by the lengths North Yorkshire Police appear to be going to avoid dealing with the issue.

The fact that the phrase ‘Environmental Visual Audit’ had to be explained speaks volumes about the way modern policing is conducted.

Perhaps it would be far easier to just have a walk round and deal with the problem using the appropriate legislation.

Timothy Wood, Guisborough

Everybody knew

WHEN the creation of the new police headquarters was proposed, everybody who knew the area said straight from the start that there were going to be parking problems for the staff that have to work there.

So why has it come as a great surprise to the powers that be – including Ms Mulligan – that there is now upset from the residents about people parking in the streets.

What did they think – that everyone who worked at Newby Wiske just lived around the corner from the new building and would walk to work?

Because of the bad decision it has caused conflict and upset to both residents and workers and it seems that fancy job titles coupled with fancy salaries does not equate to common sense decision- making.

Lynne Kemp, Richmond

Trade and immigration

In reference to the letter from Dr P Weightman, (D&S Times, Jan 19) the labels given to M Heseltine and A Adonis, I agree are not acceptable. As happens a lot these days, some people who oppose the views of someone else resort to over the top language and abuse.

Maintaining good trading links worldwide are important of course, all countries need to trade and I think common sense will prevail.

Dr Weightman, like a lot of pro-Brexiteers has a tendency to exaggerate the problems and in a way is “putting the frighteners on,” which does not help.

In my opinion the main thing the Brexiteers are opposed to is mass immigration (and they do not mean all immigration). Net migration to the UK in the 12 months to last June was 230,000.

This is a little island that we live on, the hospitals are full, the prisons are full, the schools in many areas are full.

The roads are getting close to gridlock in many areas.

More and more of our countryside and open spaces are being concreted over.

Overpopulation and increased pollution (increased standard of living?) may well turn out to be our biggest problem and not trade.

Anthony Bennett, Brotton

Times tables

SCHOOL standards minister Nick Gibb is imposing a new multiplication tables “check” (a euphemism for “test”) on eight and nine-year-olds.

I feel sorry that kids are to be put through yet another stressful ordeal.

Multiplication has always proved a problem for young children, hence the nursery rhyme, originating in the 16th century:

“Multiplication is vexation

Division is as bad

The Rule of Three doth puzzle me

And Practice drives me mad.”

The only saving grace for this latest test is that a knowledge of simple arithmetic is essential, even in this technological age when gadgets perform many simple tasks for us.

I do, however, believe that the times-tables burden could be reduced somewhat. Since the UK adopted decimalisation and metrication, there is no real need for children to memorise the 11x and 12x tables, which belong to a bygone age of £sd, feet and inches and dozens.

Give the kids a break, Mr Gibb. Don’t drive them mad with those multiplication tables which, in this day and age, are no longer relevant.

Cllr Steve Kay, Moorsholm

Town centre

THE news of a proposed redevelopment of Darlington's only tower block into a hotel must be welcome. I am sure there have been times when buildings in Darlington town centre were empty for some years, but never quite as long as this.

The very centre of Darlington is currently dominated by a lovely old church in a very poor state of repair behind Boots in Northgate. A carpets sale business was operating from there at one time.

I wonder if something can be done by Darlington Borough Council in consultation with Historic England to bring the church and associated caretaker's house back into use? If no new use can be found, perhaps consideration could be given into taking one or both of these buildings down?

Nigel Boddy, Darlington

Fracking lament

WHO is responsible for the environment? Ultimately all of us must take responsibility for collective life if such is to be possible.

Is fracking an example of that sustainable development focusing on people, profit and planet, none of which can develop in the absence of the others? Profit is there of course, but what of people and planet?

Apart from derisory bribes and exaggerated promises of jobs, people are ignored or sacrificed rather than heeded, while the planetary effects of accelerated fossil fuel development are slowly entering our awareness.

And what of shale's derivative, plastics? Sustainable consumption, equally important for collective life, emphasises responsible behaviour with a view to meeting the basic needs of all, reducing excess and avoiding environmental damage. It takes cognisance of production and distribution, and of the use of products and services.

Are these shale-enabled plastics at present killing our oceans an example of sustainable consumption? Will the production and distribution of unconventional gas really "avoid environmental damage"? The answer is known to Government, but ideology is more important. This is irresponsible. This is frightening.

David Cragg-James, Stonegrave