SIR - Mr Potter's letter (Craven Herald, March 8) certainly pulls no punches. Whilst I fully understand the emotion that can be generated by individual planning applications, many of the general assertions he makes about the National Park Authority do not match the facts.

First, can I assure your readers that there are no plans, and have never been any plans, for an "information centre" in Kettlewell. I assume Mr Potter is referring to the new toilets, which will finally put an end to the long-running problems with the existing public toilets and provide a community office and a covered bus shelter for residents and visitors.

The provision of decent facilities should only add to Kettlewell's attraction, and be good news for local business.

Mr Potter then goes on to perpetuate the myth of national park officers as "jobsworths" who put local people "through hell". This may be Mr Potter's perception but the facts present a different picture.

For example, 95 per cent of planning applications that come to this Authority are approved. Over 70 per cent of these are dealt with within eight weeks - above the national average. That is not to say that we can't do better still, and we are aiming to improve that figure to 80 per cent by the end of this year.

Turning to the issue of substance in Mr Potter's letter, his sycamore trees. As many people will be aware, anyone wanting to carry out work on a tree in a conservation area such as Grassington needs to notify the Authority of their intention. This is exactly what Mr Potter did.

After our officers had inspected Mr Potter's trees they concluded that they were a valuable part of the conservation area. By law, therefore, we were required to place tree preservation orders on them.

In an ideal world we would have told Mr Potter that this was our intention. Regrettably, however, we live in a less than ideal world, and there have been occasions in the past when trees have subsequently been felled overnight before the tree preservation order could be served (although I am in no way implying that that is what Mr Potter would have done).

It is true that, after the tree preservation orders had been put in place, there were very lengthy negotiations between Mr Potter and ourselves over the work that could be done to the trees. Inevitably, there are sometimes situations where the wishes of a landowner go beyond what is appropriate to protect the tree, and finding a satisfactory resolution takes time.

I have to say that the National Park Authority makes no apologies for taking such a rigorous approach. As with the many important local buildings, mature trees are a key part of what makes Grassington such a beautiful place to live, and attracts many visitors.

However, given the protracted nature of the negotiations in this case, we are reviewing our procedures to see if there are improvements we can make to speed up similar applications in the future.

In the meantime, if Mr Potter believes that any of our officers acted improperly in any way during those negotiations then I would be more than willing to discuss his concerns and ensure that the matter is fully investigated.

Finally, I should like to pick up Mr Potter's point about requiring a qualified tree surgeon to carry out the necessary works. Tree surgery is a specialist skill and we would not be fulfilling our duty to protect the trees if we did not insist that properly qualified contractors undertook the work. Moreover, in cases such as this where trees overhang a road or are close to phone or power lines, it is essential to ensure that the works are carried out safely.

Gary Smith,

Head of Conservation and Policy,

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority,

Colvend, Grassington

Held to ransom

SIR - On a recent Friday morning I rose at 5:30 am then drove 40 miles to Lancaster Station with child number three who needed to deliver his portfolio to Dundee University. We drove the first ten miles over packed snow and ice as the roads were not gritted.

On the way we passed neighbours houses which have no mains water, no mains electricity or mains drainage and no, the mobile phones don't work here either.

We had to drive so far because Arriva train conductors were on strike (they appear to want parity with drivers...rather like air stewardesses wanting parity with pilots). We had to set off so early because Scotrail drivers are on strike (despite operating trains, they are unable to use telephones and demand Scotrail send taxis to inform them of work rotas), so a transfer to coach was required at Edinburgh.

Upon arrival at Lancaster with moments to spare we found the train doors locked and were forced to watch as it pulled out. Station staff told us that the front door of the train had been open and that in any case a small notice at the other end of the platform stated that the doors were locked 30 seconds before departure, so the 7:23 could only be boarded up to 7:22:30.

I am afraid I, most uncharacteristically, yelled at the station staff, which was a bit unfair as they and Virgin had actually turned up for work and had provided a train, albeit one we couldn't travel on.

After writing this letter and emailing it to you at low speed (no broadband connections here) I am setting off to Leeds (another 50 miles) to take my London auditors to a mainline station so that they can get home for the weekend without relying on Arriva.

Recently our valiant postman, having battled through and around local floods, being two hours late when he reached our Dale, rang Consignia for permission to continue.

He was told to go home and deliver the post the next day as overtime could not be afforded.

I keep reading in the national press that I am living in the fourth largest economy in the western world, but Britain feels more like an insignificant and backward ex Soviet republic. As each of our services is privatised, the commitment to a universal service is abandoned in pursuit of profit and the remaining users ransomed by striking staff who want a share of that profit.

Doug MacLeod,

Halton Gill, Littondale.

Simple days

SIR - Your letter from Stanley Phillips mentioning how he and his colleagues had called at Skipton Town Hall for emergency repairs to a boiler and then popped across the road to remove a chamber pot from the head of the statue of Sir Matthew Wilson evoked a pleasant memory of the days when simple chores could be simply done by council employees.

Since that incident in the 1950s, Sir Matthew has had the occasional traffic cone plonked on his head by late night revellers, usually at the weekend. Through into the 1970s and early 1980s, the likes of Alan Mason, Malc Parkinson and Peter Greenwood would simply pull up in the van or wagon, en route to a more mundane job on Monday morning, and take it down.

Alas, not any more! On the last occasion when a traffic cone went up, it stopped up for almost a fortnight as the various realms of bureaucracy - not forgetting the now obligatory tinkering about with expensive computers - all had to have their expensive fingers involved.

So, as we await our next obligatory rates increase, we might possibly view the dismantling of Sir Matthew's head wear as representing just the tip of the very large iceberg of present day public money squandering.

However, given today's massive rates charges, and go back to those good old days policies, and there might be the money available for a new 50 metre swimming pool, athletics facilities et al. Carry on dreaming!

Roger Ingham,

Aldersley Avenue, Skipton.

Get on with it

SIR - I would like, through your letters page, to ask if the company responsible for repairing Mill Bridge at Long Preston could hurry up and get on with it.

The bridge has been closed for the biggest part of this year already and its closure is causing many problems to the people who live in Rathmell and Wigglesworth.

I live in Rathmell and work in Settle, two-and-half miles away. Three times in the past 10 days I have not been able to get to Settle because of the deep floods on Rathmell bottoms, which, incidentally, now flood in places where there have never been floods before - perhaps something could be done about this too?

The alternatives to get to Settle are via Long Preston, but the bridge is closed so we are diverted by Halton West, but this is 18 miles to get to Settle. Or we can go across the moors via Wham, which is a single track road with gates, which, believe me, is no fun alone in the pouring rain on the way home from work in the dark.

The journey is also 10 miles. I only have to get to work, but others such as school taxis have to make the same detours twice a day, every day of the week.

I know we can't do much about the weather, but please could you get on and repair the bridge, or perhaps someone could send us a raft!

K Booth,

Millgate, Rathmell.

Good for walkers

SIR - Good old Ken Lakin (Craven Herald letters, March 1). In his frustration with more loss of trade on the back of the foot and mouth he could have gone a bit over the top with his remarks but alas he could be right.

Unless someone gives us, people living local, a good explanation as to how a flat speed hump works in reducing the speed of traffic they could be labelled a waste of money. The flat speed humps do look a bit odd but I'm sure the guy who designed them knows what he's doing and is willing to let us in on the secret.

The raised speed humps off Hebden road look okay though one might question the need for one on the entrance to the GPO office, but without it the overall aesthetic value walking from the Yorkshire Dales car park would be lost.

Moving on from the speed humps, I must say the best thing to come out of the project so far is the new pavements added on Hebden road. An extra pavement should be added in front of the Spar shop. This would stop people parking illegally on the double yellow lines which forces traffic coming down the main street on to the pavement opposite when they meet traffic coming up the hill.

All the comments that have been made so far are from drivers but both myself and Wag as walkers do appreciate these extra pavements and they do have an effect in slowing down traffic in reducing the width of the road.

Let's wait till the project is finished and all explanations have been given before we start to condemn things then we can all go on to Ken's to sample his excellent ales and ask our selves is the "Dale's longest serving landlord" getting too long in the tooth? and hope that there is some money left to do the white lines and cats eyes on Station Road.

Simon Abbey,

Piece Fields, Threshfield.

Floodgates open

SIR - It was encouraging to read in your newspaper last week that councillors in Settle are concerned about the quarry-truck traffic travelling through the town. Better late than never!

Almost a year ago the North Yorks Highways Authority decided, despite a huge amount of pressure from local residents and businesses, to allow heavy quarry-trucks to continue to use the road through Settle town-centre as a route to the quarries.

Unsurprisingly, this decision has opened the floodgates, and, as councillors have correctly pointed out, this traffic has increased in volume and speed. Convoys of enormous lorries now rumble continuously though Settles narrow streets, more often than not with the driver grasping his mobile phone or CB receiver in one hand.

It should be made clear that it is only the North Yorkshire Highways Authority who can take action in this situation. The Department of the Environment, Craven's MP David Curry and Settle's Town Councillors have all expressed their concern and dissatisfaction with the present situation.

Councillor McLernon is correct when she says that it is up to the quarry operators to suggest a solution to the problem. Settle and its residents should not be made to suffer as a result of operators extracting more from their quarries.

Anyone who is concerned about the future of Settle should express their concerns to their local councillors and to the North Yorks Highways Authority at Croft House, Carleton Rd, Skipton BD23 2BG

Andrew Fawcett,

Skipton Road, Settle

The right way up

SIR - With the Queen's Golden Jubilee just around the corner could I make a plea through your paper to ask any person or business who intends to fly a union flag to ensure that it is displayed the correct way round (That is with the broad white band to the top when raised on the flagpole).

Also will the town council be purchasing a new flag or will they still be using the tattered disgrace that was displayed on last year's Remembrance Sunday, which nobody could be bothered to lower to half mast.

Maybe we should use the Simbach flag as there does not seem a shortage of money when it comes to entertaining them.

Ralph Halstead,

George Street, Skipton.

Unique points

SIR - Having read the article in the Craven Herald about the empty shops in Craven Court, I wanted to write to give my view.

As a former Saturday girl in Craven Court, I became aware of the problems faced by traders. During my time there I saw shops come and go, forced out by high overheads.

The surviving businesses in the shopping centre share the same characteristics - high quality goods, high priced goods, a renowned reputation an attractive display and, most importantly, individuality.

In a small town like Skipton, unique shops are the only ones that stand a better chance to compete against the High Street multiples.

Emily Durham,

Great Gib Farm,Cononley.

Two birds

SIR - Among the many items that have been raised in the press lately are two which could be of assistance to each other. They are the treatment of convicted offenders and the amount of litter on roadsides due to fly tipping.

Why couldn't those on community service be put to work collecting rubbish from road sides (nobody does it) and cleaning off graffiti? This would help to solve two problems at once.

D Laycock,

Aire Crescent, Cross Hills.

Empty bags

SIR - I recently walked from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Ling Gill Bridge using the Ribble Way and Pennine Way and was upset to see dozens of empty animal feed bags littering the countryside.

They were in the middle of fields, by walls, in sinkholes, and even in Ling Gill itself, which is a nature reserve.

Apart from being an eyesore, these bags must represent a danger to stock from suffocation and contravene the foot and mouth precaution notices which, amongst other things, warn against leaving food and litter in the fields.

I think the public has, by and large, been very co-operative and responsible during the foot and mouth crisis and now that we are able to visit the countryside again it is disappointing to find this kind of a mess.

I always carry a plastic bag and pick up any small items of litter which I come across during my walks but the only litter I saw on his particular walk was agricultural in origin and too bulky for me to collect.

With the rural economy increasingly dependent on tourism and recreation, I should have thought it was in everyone's interest to keep the countryside clean and tidy.

David Stuttard,

Rivock Avenue, Keighley.

Youths have rights too

SIR - Regarding the article about the proposed skate park in Glusburn Park (Craven Herald March 1).What about the "human rights" of the young people of this parish?

Young people may not have a vote but their parents certainly do. We have to be aware of their opinions and needs and as adults be socially responsible for our youths. Young people have a "human right" to facilities in this parish which, at this moment, are sadly lacking.

The parish council has been considering a skate park for the past two years and it has been "open and transparent" about it. For the duration of the discussions the Craven Herald has covered initial proposals from young people and council meetings which are open to the public.

One to one consultation was held by a parish councillor and some residents of Baxter Wood. An open meeting specifically regarding the skate park was held. This was advertised within the parish and again made public in the Craven Herald.

Noise pollution is hardly an issue. If you choose to live near a public park, you have to accept the consequences. You cannot be dictatorial, because you live nearby, about who can use this "public" amenity for normal pursuits.

The suggestions that a skate park would exacerbate the noise, nuisance and alcohol problems which happen late and overnight are ridiculous. This is a totally different issue. These problems are created by a different group of people. The young people who skate are no noisier than any other group wanting to use the park.

They are normal, energetic youngsters with an interest who wish to use their skills in a healthy way.The idea of using another area in the parish is stalling.

The park is ideal for a skate park but the possibility of having another area of land available is not certain.

At an earlier open meeting last summer regarding vandalism, a suggestion was made for a non-specific meeting area in a free, open space for young people. A wall with seating was virtually all that was needed. This is what we should be using any other available land for.

The notion that Baxter Wood residents could sue the parish council for loss of amenity is ludicrous. Some residents have private gardens bordering a public amenity, not a pastoral moorland. It would be more appropriate for young people's parents and guardians to sue the parish council for lack of amenities.

Why don't we provide for our young people a leisure facility, at least for one group, a skate park? We would be helping ourselves, the police and our parish generally to a drop in teenage crime, vandalism and boredom.

Coun Jenny Wood,

Station Grove, Cross Hills.

Delay is wise

SIR - I refer to Jane Delmege's letter regarding Glusburn Parish Council's decision to defer spending £11,000 on a skate park.

Firstly, I would like to make it clear that I am fully supportive of improving the recreational facilities for young people. However, in this instance I feel it is essential that this proposal needs further consideration and consultation as I stated at the meeting before committing this comparatively large sum of Glusburn parishioners' money.

Secondly, I'm aware that the parish council has publicised this proposal on its notice boards (although it didn't identify the specific location in the park) and also held a special meeting.

Notwithstanding these efforts, I feel it is only reasonable that the most closely located households to the proposed skatepark site are given the benefit of further consultation especially as the nearest is only about 15 metres away (I understand that the recommended distance is 50 metres).

It is unreasonable to expect elderly people to look on parish noticeboards or attend the parish council meeting.

When they began living in their home the proposed skatepark site was a paddling pool - quite a difference.

Thirdly the information I stated at the meeting regarding the Human Rights Act was given in the best interests of the parishioners to protect public money. This was to ensure that the parish council was aware of the possibility of legal action against it by any directly affected residents on the basis of a detrimental impact on their amenities. The source of this information was a professional officer.

Fourthly I have found over the years that it is beneficial to have as much information to have as much information as possible before putting pen to paper. I therefore believe it would have been helpful to Jane Delmege if she had attended the February parish council meeting and had the benefit of participation in the full debate.

In conclusion, it is relatively easy to go ahead and spend public money but what is more challenging is to ensure it is used effectively.

It is for this reason that as a parishioner, district and county councillor that I fully endorse the parish council'' decision to defer this decision whilst it evaluates other potential sites.

Phillip Barrett,

Station Road, Cross Hills.

Stormy weather

SIR - The weather recently has been tremendously windy and blown over my wheelie bin and each time it was difficult righting it.

Mind you, its contents happily remained inside and intact as they were contained in plastic bags which - dutifully - I had obtained from Tesco. I say "dutifully" because when Craven District Council imposed the new bins they counselled us to place our rubbish in plastic bags "to be obtained from your supermarket".

Placing such faith in the sublime public duty for these shops to continue supplying plastic containers in order to ensure Craven Council's system to be workable might seem to be an arrogant assumption.

And now, what do we find but the environmental lobby with some exaggeration complains that the countryside is littered with plastic bags. They apparently intend to persuade the supermarkets to place a charge of 10p on each bag in order to decrease the numbers in use. Your readers may imagine they get supermarket bags free. Not so, this is obviously an item included in their overheads and it goes into the price of their goods.

To be accurate, all the distasteful plastic I've ever seen in fields has been torn black plastic sheets.

Whereas at one time Craven council provided us with a large black plastic bin liner for our former bins (which we had paid for) and which we too had paid for inclusive in our rates; now we are to be coerced into paying 10p per bag and I use at least six every week.

Why do the bins blow over?

Because their ratio of base width to height is about three to one and its ground friction is halved because it has two wheels.

You think this is some petty and sour complaint? I tell you it strikes deep into the fight against injustice and inefficient stupidity. And the appalling alternative is that young and especially old must place their naked rubbish inside the bin without sanitary protection and then wash it out with a hose.

Finally, we were never informed that wheelie bins are manufactured in half size. More stable, easier for the elderly.

Donald Wilcox,

Garrs End Lane, Grassington.

Legs eleven

SIR - I read with amusement the recent article about the opening of a new shop by some of the Calendar Girls and there being just six remaining girls.

I thought that I should perhaps correct that inaccuracy and say that unless history can be rewritten, there has been and always will be 11 Calendar Girls, even when we eventually join that great big WI meeting in the sky.

The confusion may have arisen because some of the ladies have chosen to continue in a more high profile role while others, myself included, prefer in general to go quietly along raising money for charities by, for example, giving talks to people all over England but we don't consider ourselves "retired".

There are many hundreds of people who also quietly go about fund raising, never having their photo in the newspapers or the opportunity to do the fun things which we did, such as the Royal Variety Show.

I would like to express my personal thanks to all those people - the unsung and unknown heroes who provide vital funds for under-resourced charities.

Could I also take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to anyone who supported the Calendar Girls in any way, shape or form and enabled us to raise money for a very worthy, cause.

Moyra Livesey,

Rylstone WI Calendar Girl.

Fabrics on sale

SIR - We noticed an advertisement in the Craven Herald in which the Fent Shop claimed to be the only shop in Skipton selling fabric.

We would just like to point out that we are alive and well and still selling a range of American fabrics from the New England shop in Water Street, as we have for the past two and a half years.

JC Lesniak,

New England, Water St, Skipton.

Farewell, Doc

SIR - The patients, including myself, of Dr David Pearson (alias George Clooney!) wish him every success in going to Bradford. His kindness, understanding and devotion has been wonderful and we welcome Dr Thomas in his place.

Mrs A Newhouse,

Marina Crescent, Skipton.

Library concerns

SIR - On World Book Day let's consider these facts. Thirty five million adults and children are members of UK public libraries and borrow 420 million books, CDs and other items each year. Public libraries literally are the people's universities.

For library users, library workers hold the keys to a vast world of knowledge. Unison's library workers in more than 3,000 libraries are working to open new services and bring the world of books to new communities - refugees, ethnic minority groups and homeless people among them.

But library staff are responding to the growing demand for books and services in the face of diminishing resources - local authorities spend less than one per cent of their budgets on library services.

Unison wants to make sure public libraries continue to be able to provide quality services for all. And that the dedicated role of library staff is recognised. But that will require significant investment from central, regional and local government.

Library services are the most popular of all council services. I urge local councillors to appreciate the special role that public libraries play and to listen to library staff and their determination to deliver a world class library service.

Dave Prentis,

Unison General Secretary,

Mabledon Place, London.

Holes in the road

SIR - I would like to comment on the working methods of contractors working for the public utilities.

Footpaths are from time to time dug up all over the town. In days gone by a skilled man and a labourer could dig out a hole to find a service fault or leak, repair and back fill, reinstating in a day.

Now, with modern equipment at hand, it takes contracting firms up to three weeks to get the job done, leaving holes in footpaths open for weeks. You may say a sign of the times, but I think it's all down to foremen and supervisors not doing the job.

Only a few years ago North Yorkshire insisted that any hole dug out in a footpath or road crossing had to be reinstated the same day whenever possible and a supervisor would come back to check.

Councillors were in close watch, reporting any danger. The late Eric Stodart, Peter Willey and Robert Heseltine were shining examples on Broughton Road, Greatwood and Horse Close estates, keeping a close eye on any holes dug out. Today, nobody cares. If the public doesn't complain things will never get better.

Finally I would like to praise North Yorkshire's own workmen, repairing the back streets off Sackville Street to Castle Street. If a householder had not kicked up holy hell and taken photographs of the state of the streets' setts that job would never have been done.

Allan Mason,

Jennygill Crescent, Skipton.