SIR - Looking at your editorial of the 16th about the local inability to obtain BBC digital services, I couldn't agree more, not being able to see the Alan Clark diaries till later in the year irritated me somewhat.

However, I have been pursuing this inequality of access to services for the residents of Craven for a while now. I originally contacted cable companies like Nynex and Telewest to see whether they intended to bring services up here, which would also result in breaking BT's monopoly on phone services too.

They said they had no plans and seem to have little new investment planned.

We had cable when we lived in Bradford and it gave us loads of TV access with superb quality.

I then contacted the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, who gave me the standard Government line with a load of statistics and spin which didn't address the problem and which just ran me up a bigger phone bill!

I then decided to take it up at Parliamentary level, and I wrote to David Curry MP giving him the concerns which many constituents had expressed to me. He raised this with the Government and forwarded to me a response he received from Tessa Jowell the Minister concerned, the tone of which was disappointing to say the least.

Tessa Jowell says that they have basically filled up all the available digital channels; to create some more they will have to switch off more analogue channels, they have to time this so that those with analogue don't get cut off before they have the ability to both purchase digital equipment AND receive digital transmissions. In other words the Government have, once again, not thought things through. Where have we heard that before?

But fear not, the Government have a 'Digital Television Action Plan' which is a weighty tome, available on line and can be printed out using a whole ream of A4 on

She then went on to roll out the line over the Licence Fee. That is that it is not a "tax" or even a "right" but merely a payment for permission to receive TV broadcasts and not for the service provided, irrespective of the use made or the quality of that service.

So why not have a sliding scale? Why can't people who only want to receive ITV or Channel 4 or 5, pay less of a fee?

It seems ironic that the only way we can access BBC Digital channels is by using one of their arch-competitors with a complete monopoly in Craven, notably Sky, who rely on satellite transmission. As such they not only keep the price of the service high, but it means that properties in the national park can get refused planning permission for a velux window or two, yet can plonk receiver dishes anywhere on them.

Finally, in a last bit of spin, she said that the Government is committed to maintaining analogue broadcasting until everyone who can get these can also get them on Digital; she says Digital is an "affordable option" and "95 per cent of us can afford it".

The trouble is very few of us can access it, even if we can afford it.

You watch, they'll switch off the analogue before Craven can receive digital. That's when we send back our TV licences!

Finally she said that "digital switchover could start to happen as soon as 2006 and be completed by 2010".

Those people in Craven who wonder what we did before we had television may well be about to find out!

Coun Andy Solloway,

Craven District Council,

Granville Street, Skipton.

SIR - I have now had the opportunity to read the leaflet relating to the Boundary Committee as it reflects the various alternatives in North Yorkshire.

Being on the extreme western edge of the county I am concerned that option one, (removing Craven District Council and retaining North Yorkshire County Council), which, on the surface would seem to make most sense, will leave us as remote, in terms of accessibility, as we currently are with the county council being based at Northallerton.

We shall lose our accessibility to Skipton for a number of important services.

The traffic situation in Settle has produced little or no help from Northallerton, despite a worsening situation which could end in disaster.

It has always, in my experience, been local opinion that Settle is a poor relation of Skipton as things now are, but at least it results in dialogue.

There is no mention in the leaflet of the geopolitical structure likely to be imposed on the area. I am surprised that no mention is made of York. There is very little in the leaflet on which to base any worthwhile assessment.

Frankly, given the escalating costs of devolution in Scotland, I take the estimated administrative costs with a pinch of salt and it would be interesting to know how they are arrived at.

We shall only be told, of course, once the bills start to arrive.

The problem with a referendum is that it will probably be greeted with the apathy with which current hikes in council tax increases are received, the population having been beaten into submission by the lip service paid to democracy.

I am reminded of the words of Winston Churchill when he stated that democracy is a poor thing but it is all we have. We could perhaps make a start on improving the situation by making voting compulsory.

John Finch,


SIR - Local councillors discussing safety concerns on the proposed Barnoldswick to Earby footpath (Craven Herald, January 16) is, sadly, symptomatic of a wider malaise.

Exactly when in the last few years did we become so confused about risk? Blame in part the media.

We are bombarded with myriad dangers. The first two weeks of this year saw toxic salmon, killer deodorants, brain-boiling mobile phones to name just three.

At the same time, sections of this same media rail against speed cameras as a revenue-generating infringement of one's right to ignore society's moral code (ie the law) and drive as fast as one likes.

Well, here is a risk worth bothering about. Fact: you stand a 1 in 200 chance of dying on the roads; 3,600 of us will die this year, as we did last and will do next. And 40,000 will be horribly maimed.

I am fully aware that there is more than one form of rationality. It is just as rational to flee from a hazard as to stop - as I suggest - and really think about the risk from it. The difference is that flight generally involves sacrifice of some benefit - a question of choice, but choice is what democratic society is about.

What cannot be rational is to flee from all the risks - not only would many of us die in the rush, but willingness to take risks is a condition of biological success. If it wasn't we'd never have emerged from the caves.

So, councillors, give us the choice. Concentrate on risks that matter. Develop the footpath and let me enjoy it on my next trip home. If not I look forward to the closure of '40 Steps' on similar grounds.

Dr Richard Broughton,

Rushett Close,

Thames Ditton, Surrey.

SIR - I read your editorial at the end of November about the proposed housing development in Embsay and the subsequent letters. I would like to suggest a new approach.

Frankly, the Tannery site is a bad location for a housing estate and not much better for commercial use now that water power is no longer a necessity.

As can be seen, however, trees are growing well there and there are important features of the site such as the dams along Pasture Road which should be preserved and the nature reserve at the other end which needs protection.

My suggestion is that the whole site should become woodland. Would the Tannery owners generously donate the site to the parish council?

Would the parish council courageously accept the gift and together with the present owners investigate the availability of grants to clear the site of buildings and pollution?

Would the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority use its knowledge and skill to make it happen?

Would we, the residents of the village, give our wholehearted support to the project?

Of course this suggestion is idealistic but none the worse for that. Such things have been done in the past. It can be done and perhaps if you publish this letter it could be the first step towards the establishment of Embsay Park.

Rowena Baines,

Kirk Lane, Eastby.

SIR - Like your correspondent last week (Craven Herald Letters), I too had a strange experience with the railways last Saturday.

My youngest lad had spent the afternoon at the new indoor skatepark in Leeds having taken out an annual membership. He goes to Aireville Park when it is dry with a load of mates.

He called to say that the 4.45pm train to Giggleswick was stopping at Skipton and could Dad go and pick him up there. My first reaction: "What?! Why?!" OK, as he was to be at work by 7pm.

So, put the phone down to then try Settle station master as to what was the problem. Can't find the number! Go to Yellow Pages and you are ping-ponged between Rail Transport Services and Train Info.

No good, so I dialled 118118. You can't get any station as they are all ex-directory but I was put through to an Arriva number with no answer. Hmm!

Back to Yellow Pages and National Rail Enquiries to be told again you cannot call Settle station but 'I will give you an Arriva Trains number'.

Called that number and finally spoke to another person, a lovely, very helpful man: "Yes, the train is delayed by engineering works and the boys will be bussed from Skipton and should be due at Giggleswick at 6.30pm."

Again, he could not give me Settle Station's number. Why not?

So message back to my boy that dad will pick him up with his mates at the allotted time. But they were not all there as his mates with bikes were not allowed on the bus and had to wait in Skipton for the next train. Hmm!

All that time, effort, confusion to find out about the engineering works. Would it not be so easy just to ring our local station master?

Next time I travel by train I will ask for his number to put in my phone book. Unless someone else has a better idea!

Mum of teenage boarder Ben who is prepared to travel all the way to Leeds to skate. Can we not have something nearer? But that's another issue!!

Sue Rodgers,

South View, Langcliffe

SIR - Can anyone enlighten me how what looks like a Portakabin on stilts can possibly get planning permission?

If you don't know where I mean, try driving down Broughton Road and take a look at the Pennine Bus garage. I believed that as Skipton is an historic market town, any new buildings or changes had to blend into the existing environment.

Surely this joke of a construction cannot possibly fit in with the surrounding houses and local school. I ask this one question: Would this construction be allowed in any other residential area of Skipton?

J Wearden,

Broughton Road, Skipton.

SIR - Can I respond to some comments in last week's issue regarding the ongoing Primary Care Trust consultation on the future of primary and intermediate care across Craven.

I am grateful to Settle Town Council for taking time to debate this matter and for their interesting feedback on an alternative option for North Craven.

As the PCT has said from the very outset, we are an organisation that intends to listen and is keen to know what local people want to see provided where. If there are other ideas we have not so far thought of, we would be happy to consider them.

Can I also reassure the councillors that, contrary to their suspicions, we are totally committed to hearing the views of as many people as possible from across Craven, and indeed we took local advice before we decided on the venues and times of our public meetings. Of course, no meeting can suit the exact needs of everyone, and the offer remains open for local groups to request a speaker from the PCT to come and make a more informal presentation to them.

At Bentham last week we had a lively debate about a number of issues of concern to people there, and we also heard a number of suggestions from the audience. One of these was to consider the possibility of a further public meeting closer to the homes of those people living in the Wharfedale villages the PCT covers. We are currently trying to arrange a meeting in the Grassington area.

I would also like to reassure your correspondent Mr Cookson, who wrote highlighting his views on access to Castleberg Hospital and the difficulty of getting there on foot from parts of Settle.

Our aim in starting this debate was to ensure these issues could be aired in a public forum. We genuinely want to hear what people want from their local health services, and access is at the heart of these discussions.

Everyone's view is important, so please use this opportunity to say what you think, and work with us to develop the best possible solution we can for residents of Craven. I look forward to seeing as many people as possible at our next public meeting at the Victoria Centre in Settle from 12.30pm to 2pm on February 4.

Penny Jones,

Chief Executive,

Craven, Harrogate and Rural District PCT.

SIR - I read your article that Grassington Festival had been refused an Arts Council Grant because it was "not radical enough"

One of my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary definitions of radical is: "of or pertaining to a root or roots".

My great great grandfather's family farmed in the Dales for well over 100 years before poverty sent him, in 1865, to employment in the brick yards in Burnley.

Thanks to the Grassington Festival I have learnt to build dry stone walls in limestone as he would have done.

Is this radical enough for the Arts Council?

Mrs C Hooper,

Chamber End Fold, Grassington

Charity thanks

SIR - May I thank my family and friends in helping me to raise £1,267 for Scad this year. Also Tom's charity dances and Karen's aerobic class and special thanks to Mary Atkinson.

Deanna Craven,

Mill Close, Settle.

SIR - I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who helped in The Cards for Good Causes Christmas outlet in Skipton Town Hall, the town hall staff for their hospitality and all the customers who bought cards in support of the various charities.

We look forward to seeing you again in Christmas 2004.

Joyce Young,

Skipton manager,

Cards for Good Causes.