Petty politics

YET again, we have seen evidence that Hambleton District Council's conduct has sunk to being amateur at best (D&S Times, March 30).

Given the fact that the poet Kate Fox criticised Hambleton District Council as far back as 2016, the council had plenty of time to drop her as the host of their Community Awards. Instead, they left it until the eleventh hour to state that her services were no longer required. As a compensation for the short notice, she was still paid her full £250 fee.

I despair. If the council want to have a petty political squabble, then please, please don't do so at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, I must also ask, what is it about standing up and presenting a few pats-on-the-back for one night worth the princely sum of £250? So, not only are the council willing to waste taxpayer's money on a hyped-up service, they are willing to waste it on a hyped-up service which never happened.

Looking beyond the wasted money, this whole ordeal has proven there is something even more valuable at risk.

Given the fact that free speech is under fire (just look at what happened to the MP Jacob Rees-Mogg at a university recently, plus at how Nigel Farage and President Trump are constantly abused), it is deeply concerning that Hambleton Council are effectively shutting out folk who express an opinion not befitting of their point of view.

This episode has sent out a great stinking message which states “if you speak your mind and we happen not to like it, then your place is worth less than that of the quiet, better-behaved citizens”.

I would recommend that if the council want to uphold the British tradition of free speech, then they must consider actions like this very carefully in future. Otherwise, democracy, free speech and free-thinking within the community will all suffer.

Joseph Lambert, East Cowton

Fumes fear

IT seems a bit late to be worrying about traffic chaos in Northallerton town centre - we shop there daily and can confirm that much of the High Street, and the roads leading into it, both from the north and southern ends of the town, suffer frequent grid-lock resulting in idling traffic and toxic air pollution. This is before the latest housing development at the northern end of town, 1,200 houses with two cars per household on average, an extra 2,400 motors potentially, has been completed.

However it's the effect extra traffic might have on the two schools close to the proposed prison site that most worries me. Recent research elsewhere in the country has demonstrated that schools within 150m, with an increased volume of traffic, puts pupils' health at risk.

Exposure to such levels of pollution could lead to 15 to 30 per cent of new cases of asthma in children. That exposure to environmental toxicants can stunt children's intellectual abilities and increases the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorders. A study in New Zealand found that for each 5-microgram increase in blood lead, a person lost 1.5 IQ points and that the mean blood level of children aged 11 was 10.99 micrograms per decilitre of blood, slightly higher than the historical "level of concern" for lead exposure.

Today's reference value at the CDC recommends public health intervention is half that, five micrograms per decilitre, a level which 94 per cent of children in the study exceeded. No safe blood-lead level in children has been identified. Are we really going to sacrifice our children's health, the community's health, for corporate wealth, particularly at a time when our doctors' surgeries are working at full capacity and services at our local hospital are being run-down?

Phil O'Brien, Northallerton

Homes loophole

THANK you for publishing recent letters in the D&S Times on the issue of affordable housing. Chris Purser, Charmian Walter and Trevor Mitchell have all set out the urgent need for changes to the planning loophole whereby housing developers are able to use “the viability assessment rule” to get out of their commitment to provide an agreed number of affordable homes in local developments.

The proposed revision of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) offers an opportunity to close this loophole.

I draw your readers’ attention to the recent report “Viable Villages” published by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. The report argues that “it is crucial that the government closes down the viability loophole taking the opportunity of the revised National Planning Policy Framework to create a system of viability assessments that is fair, limited and transparent”.

I urge our local district councillors and MP to support the recommendations of CPRE. The report can be found at villages and representation can be made to the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid before May 10.

David Emison, Bedale

What happened?

MY mother died recently and left a notebook full of her childhood memories of life on a farm near Kilburn.

In it she mentions a Jewish boy who had been sent by his family from Germany just before war broke out. She remembered with sadness that he spoke virtually no English and was very homesick. He worked on the farm for a while but was then interned until the war ended.

After the war he worked on a farm near Northallerton trying to save enough to get home. His name was Fritz Steinberg or Steinweg.

I wonder if he ever managed to get home and be reunited with his family. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who knows anything about Fritz.

Sue Barton, Sessay

No apologies

JEREMY Corbyn has suggested that Prince Charles may not be the right person to be head of the Commonwealth when he becomes King. And, the Labour leader thinks Britain should apologise to the other Commonwealth nations for wrongs committed during our imperial past.

Just as Charles is heir to the Queen, the Commonwealth is heir to the British Empire. As such, it would lose its meaning and purpose if someone, other than the British monarch, were at its head. Furthermore, the vast majority of Commonwealth nations want, and expect, the British sovereign to remain in the role.

Over the last 200 years, Britain has, generally, been a force for good in the world. We brought peace, the rule of law, education, industry, world-wide trade and, in places, democracy to millions across the globe. Through 21st-century eyes, we were far from perfect rulers, but values and morals, in the 19th and 20th-centuries were not as they are today.

Britain and the other Commonwealth countries should not obsess about past wrongdoings, but, as at the Commonwealth Games, move forward in a spirit of friendship and mutual respect. Apologies are neither expected, nor appropriate.

Cllr Steve Kay, Moorsholm

High salaries

ACCORDING to the latest “Town Hall Rich List” published by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a total of nine directors and executives employed by North Yorkshire County Council were each paid in excess of £100,000 last year, exactly the same number as in the previous year. The chief executive received £195,345 including pension contributions made by the council.

The size and scale of these remuneration packages raises serious questions about efficiencies and priorities and about the commitment of our elected councillors to deliver meaningful cost reductions.

Council tax payers faced with an inflation-busting five per cent increase in their bills and deteriorating local services will be entitled to ask why cost-cutting measures do not extend to County Hall executive salary bills and whether these highly-paid individuals are providing us with value for money.

John Warren, Aldfield

War work

DAVID Walsh is partially right about wartime railway precautions at Northallerton (D&S Times, April 13).

An emergency diversion line was constructed from the current low level lines alongside the main line but at a lower level, crossing the Spring Lane area to rejoin the main line.

As the line crossed the Wensleydale branch at an awkward height, a portable bridge section was produced for use if needed.

The course of much of the line can still be traced, though it was almost certainly never used in anger. I have not heard any mention of spare mainline bridge sections and pointwork being produced and stored nearby.

Tim Bounds, Ingleby Barwick

Cruel name

THE naming of the former prison site in Northallerton is somewhat unfortunate. The new commercial development is to be named "The Treadmills' and we are told that the name “will reflect the history of Northallerton”.

How can an instrument of torture so grotesque as a treadmill reflect our history?

The town has a very interesting past and the prison was but a small part of it. Surely the new complex should bear a name that looks foward to a new and vibrant future, not a name that shouts cruelty.

Why not allow the town's folk of Northallerton to choose the name in the way that the people of Darlington were allowed when choosing The Corn Mill? There is still time to have a re-think.

Tony Eaton, Northallerton

Tax demands

Spectator (D&S Times, April 13) records concern about council tax demands.

When we came here to Harmby in 1973, we received a “communication” from the council. It was expressed in the strongest and no uncertain terms: we had failed to pay our rates in accordance with the first demand from the council. There would be the most dire consequences if we did not pay immediately.

I phoned the council saying we had never received the first demand, and asked for an apology. I was told in further no uncertain terms that the first demand must have been sent. I asked how they could prove that. They couldn’t, but it didn’t make any difference anyway. I was adamantly told that once the council had declared the rate, legally the council need not do any more at all, and it was up to householders to discover what their liability was, and pay it.

Mervyn Wilmington, Harmby

Satnav safety

WOULD I be a voice crying in the wilderness if I was to say that satnavs are a dangerous distraction while driving?

Surely it would be better if they were not visual and offered only verbal instructions, and had to be placed in one’s pocket hence and so did not partly obscuring the windscreen.

Geoff Gregg, Tursdale

Selling assets

IN last week's D&S Times you ran an article on page three about donations being raised for a new scanner for the NHS. On page five there was another article about the NHS selling off property that was gifted to them.

I wonder what guarantees anybody has that the new scanner won't be sold off?

John Carrington, Sowerby

Siblings Day

TO some, Siblings Day on April 10 may have seemed trivial. But for families caring for a seriously ill child, it can be an important reminder of the bond between brothers and sisters.

The last few years have been indescribably tough for my family after my eight-year old son Adam was diagnosed with a brain tumour and spinal cancer. Whilst it was horrendous trying to help him through all the treatment, one of my biggest worries was the effect Adam’s illness would have on my 12-year-old daughter Megan.

I watched as Megan become more and more distant, witnessing her brother in pain and trying to cope with the situation.

That’s when Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity stepped in and we met our sibling support worker Callie. As soon as she became part of Megan’s life, I saw my little girl again. She had someone to share her worries and fears with about Adam.

We are now in a much stronger place and Adam, now aged 10, and Megan, 14, are closer than ever, which I know is thanks to Rainbow Trust. So to mark Siblings Day may I urge your readers to support this incredible charity by visiting

Clare Finch, Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity