SIR - We read with alarm the section in the Craven Herald about the threat of closure of Skipton General Hospital.

When Airedale General Hospital first opened in July 1970, it covered a number of towns, Bingley, Keighley, Skipton, Grassington, Settle, Earby and Barnoldswick. It also had a number of smaller hospitals under its wing Bingley Hospital, Keighley Victoria Hospital, St John's Hospital, Keighley, which was a maternity hospital, and Morton Banks hospital, which was an infectious diseases hospital.

There were three hospitals in Skipton - Cawder Ghyll (a maternity hospital), Skipton General and Raikeswood. There was also Castle Hill Hospital at Settle.

The Keighley hospitals closed soon after Airedale opened. Cawder Ghyll in Skipton closed in the mid-1970s.

In 1973 there was the reorganisation of the county boundaries, in which North Yorkshire's boundary came within a stone's throw of the north boundary wall of Airedale. Earby and Barnoldswick were given to Lancashire, notwithstanding some of the GPs there continued to send patients to Airedale for a time.

Airedale Health Authority then managed to bring Ilkley and its Coronation Hospital under its wing -locally, I was told, there was not much enthusiasm for that move.

In 1992 NHS Trusts were introduced and later Primary Care Units. Hitherto in the Airedale area there have been two Primary Care Groups -Keighley and Craven. The Craven Primary Care Group is now amalgamated with Harrogate and Ripon. There is a risk that Airedale Primary Care Group may be amalgamated with the Bradford Group.

Two years ago there was a series of public meetings about the merger of Craven Primary Care Group and the Harrogate and Ripon Group. Despite considerable local opposition, the merger of the Craven and Harrogate Primary Care Groups went ahead.

At two of those public meetings I mentioned Skipton General Hospital, and asked how safe it would be under the merged Primary Care Groups.

Raikeswood Hospital in the 1970s had general medical wards and also wards for the elderly. In the late 1970s the general medical wards ceased to exist, and all the wards were turned into beds for the elderly. When the hospital closed in 1991, and the land and buildings ultimately sold, we were all assured that the money from the sale of Raikeswood Hospital and its land would be given to enlarge Skipton General Hospital.

That never happened.

Skipton General Hospital in the early 1970s had general medical and surgical wards, and also beds for the elderly. It had a small operating theatre. It also had a small pathology laboratory, and X-Ray and physiotherapy departments. There has always been an outpatient department. There used to be an accident and emergency department.

By the end of the 1970s the general medical and surgical wards had been closed, as had the small pathology laboratory.

For a time there were GP beds. Now there is an outpatient department, physiotherapy and radiology departments, and a ward for the younger disabled. This hospital is the seat of the on-call general practitioner in the evenings and at weekends. Importantly it has adequate parking.

Over the years, therefore, the medical facilities at Skipton General Hospital have been gradually eroded.

If Skipton General Hospital (and for that matter the Coronation Hospital at Ilkley) closes, one presumes that all the out-patients will have to go to Airedale General Hospital. Are the outpatient facilities at Airedale General Hospital of sufficient size to cope with an increase in patients?

Anyone coming from Skipton and beyond will have to wait a variable length of time at Steeton level crossing. The patients from Ilkley and Skipton will have to try and find a car parking spot at Airedale.

Being now an ordinary mortal, I am only too well aware of the lack of adequate car-parking space at Airedale. We are told that 'car-parking rage' is commonplace.

Hitherto Skipton General Hospital, and for that matter Coronation Hospital, have served the needs of the inhabitants of Craven and the Ilkley area. They are both liked and respected.

Dales residents have a long way to travel to Airedale General Hospital.

Skipton General Hospital is much easier. We think it is sad that moves are now being made to close those two hospitals. The members of the public must be told about the reasons for this in detail, and asked for their opinions: they must also be told what will happen in their place.

When the public meetings were held regarding the merger of the Craven and Harrogate Primary Care Groups, the opinion of members of the public were completely ignored. We only hope that the opinions of members of the public will be listened to, and acted upon, assuming that a public meeting is held in respect of Skipton General Hospital.

Like many others we are extremely cynical and sad about the current direction of the NHS.

The views of the local inhabitants are being ignored. Political and other pressures seem to be far more important. Can we make a strong plea that Skipton General Hospital remains open.

Dr Roger Pyrah,

Dr Enid Pyrah,


SIR - The mention of the closure of Skipton Hospital makes me shiver.

I worked for Mr TD Lumb for many years.

He gave his house, Whinfield, so that it could be made into a hospital for the use and benefit of everyone in Skipton.

I do not know what he would think if he were alive today.

Would you please reconsider and think about those who use and need the hospital, especially the young and elderly.

Mrs J Iveson,

Cawder Road,


SIR - I was interested to read (Craven Herald September 12) that the "Old Jailhouse" opposite the Masons Arms at Eastby was being mooted as a listed building.

It was built as a provender house for the storage of flour which was collected and transported along Barks Lane to the Barden and Bolton Abbey estates. It formed part of their provisions which is probably why the windows were barred on the front and rear of the building, transportation was also routed down Rowton Lane to Embsay avoiding Mill Hill and Kirk Lane.

At the bottom of Mill Hill at Eastby there are still the remains of the old flour mill, the wheelhouse and buildings are still very much in evidence and the former mill dam is situated above the wheel house, out of sight of the road.

On this site was a second provender house which supplied the Kirk Estate. This building was used by Billy Stitt, the local gamekeeper, during the 1950s. He used to keep his traps there, it had barred windows, similar to the one at the east end of the village.

Around the time of the Boer War the building at the east side of the village was used by the Royal Mail as a collection point and in the middle of the last century it was used as a joiner's shop which was run by Harry Calvert, who resided in Eastby.

His speciality was wooden light fittings, moulded entirely by hand. It was he who build a loft to store his small supply of timber.

Ken Johnson,

Bank Road, Cross Hills.

SIR - I am writing in reference to the minute's silence for the one year anniversary of September 11 - or rather the lack of it.

We read in the newspapers that there was to be a minute's silence at 1.46pm on September 11 in Skipton and we are still waiting.

As a firefighter my comrades and I felt a bonding with the firefighters of the Fire Department New York as all firefighters through the world do. So perhaps in that context there was different reason for our organisation to wish to remember.

But the events of that day were so terrible to comprehend that it affected a lot of people who would possibly not normally grieve for another country's loss.

It appears that in Skipton no-one in authority, our elected councillors, thought it important enough to at least have a service or memorial to those terrible events.

A group from the fire brigade took it upon themselves to form a guard and proceed to the cenotaph and at least offer our sympathies, a small token at a place that is a focal point for people who gave their lives in the service of their country.

I know there may be those that say what has the Twin Towers to do with our memorial, but we must rmember that we have stood side by side with the Americans in wars all over the world and although this was not a war, let no-one be misguided; the terrorists who took this action against the West think they are at war with us.

Where else can be used as a focal point for the memory of those who lost their lives?

The group of firefighters who stood at the cenotaph thank the people in the parish church yard who took it on themselves to stand with us at the time.

However, it seems that the events have touched millions of people worldwide, but not the hearts of our local council.

Mr ES Atkinson,


SIR - Over the last few months I have read with interest letters complaining about the neglected areas of our market town.

The citizens and public are right to voice their opinions in print in the Craven Herald.

It took the Duke of Wellington's parade to get the town hall setts clean and weed-free, a job that should have been done two years ago.

Congratulations to whoever did the job right.

Work has started on Otley Road council gardens. Hooray! But what about the builders' rubbish - six white plastic bags full left at the top of the raised garden steps in public view for two weeks.

In my day you'd have got a verbal warning and if it was still there the next day you'd have been sacked.

There are still many areas of the town which need attention over the winter.

Craven District Council, you will get some praise from the tourists and residents but you have to earn it first.

Allan Mason,

Jennygill Crescent, Skipton.

SIR - Passing a roundabout near Skipton I nearly crashed seeing a sign saying "manufacturing gone, mining gone, fishing gone, farming going, going..."

As a miner during the miners' strike, fighting for my future and the future of our mining industry we sent a small party to the auction mart at York to try to drum up support, sign a petition etc. The reaction from the farming community was one of derision. We were jeered, told to get back to Russia - and that was the nice ones.

So now the farmers don't want to go down the same route as the miners. We ex-miners are full of sympathy. My reaction (the polite version) is "what goes around, comes around".

J Drummond,

Brook Street, Selby.

SIR - I write in response to the letter from Rev Donald Bird (Craven Herald September 6).

I was surprised at the considerable lack of understanding displayed with regard to farming conditions in New Zealand compared with those in the UK.

The system in New Zealand is complex and not all farmers will currently make the amount of money referred to by Rev Bird.

It should be noted that in contrast to Rev Bird's assertions, people have been going to New Zealand to examine their farming methods for the last 30 years. The ultimate conclusion from this research has been that there is nothing to learn from the New Zealanders with regard to land or animal management.

In his letter Rev Bird correctly states that the conditions in New Zealand are both warmer and wetter than here. What he apparently does not understand is the considerable effect that this has on grass growth. Put simply grass grows faster and for longer, allowing a much reduced cost base for those fortunate enough to experience such climatic conditions.

The New Zealand system is as flawed as our own, just in different ways. We have a high cost structure, they have lower animal welfare, more relaxed labour laws, lower wages to go hand in hand with a substantially better climate for growing grass which means that under current world market conditions their farmers are doing better.

Tim Palmer,

Secretary, Craven branch,

National Farmers Union,

Skipton Auction Mart.

SIR - Last Saturday there were youngsters swimming in the river, an up Dales farmer was hay making and there was a full programme of league cricket. Yes it was summer, glorious summer.

But, head for home and what do we pass? Answer - houses with Christmas lights and decor. Wait a minute, though, not finished yet.

Such is the warmth and serenity of the day that my mate decides to have a barbecue. So off he heads to a local supermarket to buy some barbecue tackle only to find that the shelf has already been cleared to make way for Christmas crackers and other Yuletide goods.

Then, a day later, I switch on my radio and the programme producer says "has your town gone Christmas daft, give us a call."

Bradford, Bury, Bristol, Brighton and a B lot more - the phone lines were virtually jammed. Indeed one listener even rang in to say that her local supermarket had been playing carols and Christmas music.

Now, I am no Scrooge but if anyone wonders what I want for Christmas this year my Christmas wish is simply for Christmas to begin some time in December.

However, if I am out of step with modern day thinking then here are a couple of logical suggestions. Regarding the perennial fund raising for Skipton's Christmas lights (which I always contribute to). Why not simply leave up the previous array because the traditional dismantling time is near enough to this apparent modern new Christmas starting time.

And, as an escape for those people who, by December, have become absolutely brassed off with Christmas madness, why not gather at a supermarket car park on December 25 and let us all sing some good old Easter hymns.

Happy Easter!

Roger Ingham,

Aldersley Avenue, Skipton.

SIR - Congratulations must go to the Glusburn and Cross Hills Park committee and park keeper on your lovely park and equipment and also the new skatepark - very well used it seems.

There were about 40 young lads enjoying themselves last Saturday afternoon and about another 30 children with parents enjoying the playground.

A good jumper may be needed for adults who wish to sit and watch, as it is rather a cold area.

J&R Tindall,

Pinnacle View, Cowling.

SIR - I am writing to complain about the fact that they will be stopping speech therapy at Airdale General Hospital and Silsden group practice for children who are five or at the end of reception school year.

Both my two children, now five and seven, have attended speech therapy at Silsden. My oldest was referred at two and a half, which is young as most children have to be three before a speech therapist sees them. Two years isn't a long time to sort out any speech problems, especially in boys who develop a lot more slowly.

They say children will receive help in schools. It won't be one to one like it is currently. When will it be fitted in with a very busy national curriculum?

What I foresee is that it will be stopped to five year olds and older to save money - but there will be problems down the line.

Mrs Sarah Cox,

Cornwall Avenue,