Worth trying

I REGRET that Richmondshire District Council have killed off the proposal for increased council taxes on second homes.

It might have resulted in unintended consequences, and the logic for choosing the Dales as the first place to test it is perhaps questionable, but it was surely worth trying as a way of reducing the problem of homes for those on limited means.

It is helpful for an area to have some “second homes” that are let out as long-term accommodation; and it is probably acceptable to have a very small number that are let out full time as holiday lets. I do have some sympathy with those who cited reasons of local ties for holding on to an inherited second home. I

I’m much less sympathetic to those who say that they generate local employment (so permanent residents don’t?), that the policy would result in reduced house values (good, it’s a home, not an investment); and that they bought a house that nobody else wanted to buy (true – because locals couldn’t afford it]).

The bottom line is that surely it cannot be morally acceptable to own a second home for personal use when there are insufficient available for those who simply need somewhere affordable to live.

Hugh Thompson, Osmotherley

More complex

WHAT a pity that some members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority have chosen to ignore an overwhelming body of evidence in their response to the defeated second homes council tax proposal.

Eloquent submissions from Dales tradesmen, licensees, full time residents, five Dales parish councils, legal experts, learned academics... I could go on. Yet still the YDNPA lash out at second homeowners as the convenient whipping boys for inevitable social change and years of neglect in the national park.

If chairman Carl Lis is snowed in and short of reading material can I suggest a sheaf of submissions from last week’s lively Richmondshire District Council meeting as a start, followed by the reasoned and well-informed editorials in the D&S Times, topped off by the minutes of the parish councils in his patch.

He may then appreciate that this issue is more complex and nuanced than he clearly still believes.

Lindsay Leonard, Fremington

Affordable homes

THE first signs of work to provide the long-delayed improved access to the Thirsk by-pass coincide with the publication of a report "Viable Villages" highlighting the ease with which property developers can ride roughshod over the financial provisions intended to provide affordable housing in their developments.

The inclusion of the scheme in a national report - researched jointly by the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Shelter, the charity for the homeless - emphasises the scale of our local loss.

The liability of the developer to contribute to the cost of the roadworks mentioned above provided the excuse for them to walk away from their commitment to affordable housing on the site.

All they have to do is to "demonstrate" that including affordable housing will damage their ability to make what the planning rules describe as a "competitive return". This is defined in the report as around 20 per cent. Compare that to what you and I are getting on building society deposits – one per cent if you are very lucky.

Adding to that, many developers will route their profits through tax havens to avoid paying more than a token tax rate on their profits.

The report calls for a simple change to the national planning rules, by removing the word "competitive".

The builders will no doubt argue that having to provide for social or affordable housing will damage their profits, and their ability to build enough houses to meet the acknowledged national shortage, but the sort of higher priced premium houses so far erected on the Sowerby Gateway does nothing to effectively meet the shortfall.

Local authorities are usually first in the firing line when promises made to include affordable new homes are broken, but they are bound by the rules made by central government. They are also at the mercy of big national housebuilders, who can afford better lawyers and accountants than our council tax can afford. Download and read the report from cpre.org,uk

Lobby our MP Kevin Hollinrake, who as a millionaire estate agent should certainly appreciate the problem.

Chris Purser, Sowerby

Parking lament

THERE are many iconic views in the North-East. Your readers will have their favourites: the Angel of the North, Durham Cathedral, the Transporter Bridge, Sycamore Gap and my favourite - Roseberry Topping.

Sadly, with its well-deserved popularity comes the growing problems with parking. There has been a car park below Roseberry Topping for many years. It used to be free. However, in recent years there has been a modest parking fee.

This was the start of the parking problems for local residents and road users. Drivers started to park on the verges outside the car park. Efforts to deter this dangerous roadside parking were tried, using banks of soil, but drivers just parked further along the road.

The council has attempted to ease the parking problems by creating a new parking area from a former lay-by. If there were awards for attractive lay-by parking, surely this would win an A-star for effort.

Sadly, the new car park is just too small. Enthusiastic walkers park their cars along the road, on the well-tended grass in the village and on the pavements outside residents’ homes. Apart from the danger of parking on a busy road - with children getting out of cars into the path of on-coming traffic - there is the litter that people leave behind on the churned-up verges and in the hedges.

Perhaps the fervent countryside campaigners from Great Ayton, well-known from the columns of this newspaper, could come to the aid of this beautiful village. It is so sad that such an iconic spot, with its woodland and moorland walks and spectacular views in all seasons, is now being blighted by its popularity.

Action is needed to stop the littering, to highlight the lack of consideration shown to residents and to prevent accidents on the busy road. We need to look after our treasures. We cannot turn the countryside into a museum, but we must provide parking facilities for people to enjoy their walks in safety. And all visitors should show more consideration for the residents who live in this beautiful village.

Terence Fleming, Guisborough

Police parking

OUR local police have always rated very highly in their relationship with our local people, this special relationship is being damaged by the car parking problems associated with the lack of parking on the new headquarters site in Northallerton, leading to staff having to park their cars on adjacent streets.

Everyone needs breathing space to sort this serious problem and I would suggest the following areas should be looked at with some urgency:

1. Enter into discussion with Hambleton District Council to try and secure a fixed number of car parking spaces, at a competitive price, in their adjacent car park for a period of around one year. I would assume this could be possible. I know from previous experience - 27 years as a district councillor - that the council looks on the local police with a good deal of goodwill.

2. Longer term, although I am not familiar with the adjoining fire brigade site, I understand that they have land and buildings not in use., this could be an area where with some original thinking the problem could be solved.

Alderman Ralph Andrew, Northallerton

Quite disgusted

REGARDING parking in Northallerton since the police HQ moved to the area - as a resident of Crosby Road I am directly affected by the chaotic parking.

I attended a recent meeting at the police HQ and can only say I was really shocked and quite disgusted with the attitude of the officers attending. They accepted a problem does exist and they were there to try to solve it, if possible. Basically saying the police HQ was here to stay and we, the residents, had to put up with it.

Firstly, according to them it is not an offence to park on the pavement. Where does a police officer get the authority from to give drivers carte blanche to drive on, and park on the pavement?

Pavements are for people - but having noticed the way North Yorkshire Police and staff abandon their vehicles on pavements and in grass verges they obviously do not think so.

The police inspector indicated that they can park on the pavement. This demonstrates his knowledge and understanding of the law. Under highways legislation it is illegal to drive a vehicle on a pavement (not park) so it goes without saying that the vehicle has to be driven to get there. There is also the possibility of offences of obstruction or dangerous parking to be considered. David Severs, in his letter of February 16, clearly highlights these offences.

Finally, the Police and Crime Commissioner created this problem by not carrying out - or choosing not to carry out, adequate in-depth research before embarking on this project. She now, as usual, chooses to keep her head down having ridden roughshod over anyone who gets in the way.

Stella Colley, Northallerton

Selfish attitude

I READ with interest the latest saga concerning the “parking blight” in Northallerton since the arrival of the new police headquarters. I question why should Hambleton District Council be blamed? If they allow concessionary car parking due to the gross error of forward planning by the police then it will be the council taxpayers, who are already being subject to an increase in the forthcoming financial year, being further penalised.

It is no surprise that damage has been caused to vehicles due to inconsiderate parking. How else can young mothers with buggies or, disabled persons vehicles expected to negotiate in safety with cars parked over the pavements?

It would be nice to think that these inconsiderate parkers would actually spend their concessionary parking charges by shopping in Northallerton but, however it’s not unusual to observe staff eating their lunch in their parked cars and then returning to work afterwards.

Northallerton is currently a ghost town with too many shops vacant. A suggestion would be to utilise one of these vacant properties with a visible police office accessible to all, with perhaps a real police officer in attendance.

Having worked and commuted, at my own expense, into London when mortgage rates were considerably higher than at present I have little sympathy for this very selfish attitude towards fellow human beings.

Margaret Redhead, Northallerton

Council tax

THEY say that, in this world, nothing can be certain except death and taxes. In Darlington, it seems, the certainty is death and increased taxes.

An elderly person, living alone, receives a 25 per cent rebate on their council tax. This presumably recognises that they make less demand on the council’s resources. However, when they die, the amount of council tax payable on the property immediately reverts to 100 per cent.

It seems a strange logic that one person pays less than two, but a property with no persons pays the full amount. Other councils allow six months grace after a sole occupant dies before charging council tax, but not Darlington.

Is it any surprise that the residents of Darlington feel that they are being fleeced at every opportunity, but don’t see the money put to good use?

I note that parking charges have recently increased and that disabled motorists will soon be required to pay for an annual permit for the business parking in Silver Street.

As for the state of the roads in Darlington, many are a disgrace. Nunnery Lane, to give just one example, reminds me of the Beatles song about 10,000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire. Has the council ever counted them all? And before anyone makes excuses, these holes were there long before the winter weather, which has just made them worse.

As for the resurfacing of roads around the Denes last autumn, I know it was done by a well-known national company, but one could be forgiven for thinking they were done by one of those itinerant gangs who offer to do one’s drive.

Do we get value for money from the council tax we pay, and where is the logic, or indeed compassion, in charging full council tax on the empty property of a deceased person?

James Whitton, Darlington

Cull call

MARGARET Huntley says that mink are wiping out hedgehogs and causing chaos in the countryside (D&S Times, Feb 23).

We are having the same problems in our town gardens but by urban foxes. They seem to delight in biting the heads off other animals.

A hedgehog nest in a neighbours garden contained three baby hedgehogs – all with the heads bitten off.

We had to give up keeping pet hens as no matter how much we reinforced our fences they still found a way in. They rarely carried heads or bodies away so can’t have been hungry.

Too many people feed them and try to make pets of them. They also wreck our gardens digging large craters and turfing out plant tubs – looking for worms we are told.

We need a cull.

Yvonne Rowe, Darlington

You first

THE UK's gas supplies are on a knife edge with all this cold weather. If push comes to shove I'm sure we can rely on all those people who oppose fracking to turn off their heating first.

DW Lacey, Newton Hall