SIR - The Herald informed its readers of the problems of the road collapsing between Skipton and Rylstone.

It amazes me that the Highways Agency are making this out to be such a massive problem and expense. We now have to endure traffic lights for a year - right over Christmas and heading into Easter.

I wonder if I am missing something. This road has been collapsing for as long as I can remember and the Highways Agency have waited until the road is dangerous before they have decided to act. Now they have insufficient funds in the pot until next year. No forward planning there then!

At the other side of the road to the collapsing area is a wide open field. Would it not be simpler, cheaper, less work, less upheaval and faster to purchase a section of this field, remove the corner and straighten the road? This would be away from the unstable hillside, thus you would not need to build any retaining wall or mess around trying to hold back the forces of nature.

In Switzerland (where I travel a lot for business and pleasure), they have just had the worst floods for 100 years. In the Engelberg region, the only road and railway access into the town (of similar size to Skipton) was totally washed away. All the residents and tourists were stranded with the only means of getting out being a helicopter.

The authorities in the Engelberg, planned two temporary roads across a hillside, one into the town, one out. They built both and had them open for traffic 12 days after the flood. These roads were over one mile long each, with tarmac and Armco barriers.

What we really need in a case like this on the road to Grassington is to take a leaf out of the Swiss books. Stop trying to make things difficult, stop trying to cause as much disruption as possible and just get on with the job in hand.

If everyone got on with it, the new road section across the field could be in and finished way before Christmas leaving the Dickensian Festival open for the tourists. Are the visitors really going to sit in the traffic chaos caused by the traffic lights? No, they will go elsewhere.

Jonathan Strange,

Coniston Cold.

SIR - Most of the nation's newspapers notified us recently of the death of Anne Grigg Booth, the former nurse who was charged with criminal acts in relation to her patients.

Some of them were quick to speculate openly about her guilt, and even to suggest further crimes. Since then we have heard another interpretation of events.

Her solicitor, far from shrinking from the case, has presented what would have been the essence of her defence. Expert opinion has already contradicted the 'open and shut' case presented to us previously.

She died alone and in poor health, at a young age. Each of us who knew her must come to terms, in our own way, with the separation that we maintained from her. It would be possible for her death to pass without much comment in her favour. I have no particular wish to do so, except to say that there are a number of issues that merit comment in the interests of fairness and propriety.

Firstly it seems a matter of some urgency that the public should be informed about how such alleged abuses of trust and position can happen within a Health Trust. How can such behaviour go unnoticed?

Whatever did happen, we have heard no explanation from her employers.

A charitable view is that they have kept any comment to themselves for fear of prejudicing her trial, except that they had already stopped her salary, and presumably been party to her being struck from the nursing register, all prior to a trial. We must hope that the forthcoming Health Service investigations will be thorough and robust.

Then there is the inordinate length of time that the criminal charges have taken to be dealt with by the legal establishment. So long in fact, that the accused person has not survived the process.

Ms Grigg Booth was, I believe, suspended from her duties in February 2003. Her trial was eventually set for April 2006, more than three years later.

Innocent, unless proved otherwise, it is impossible to imagine the anguish that a person must feel during such an unseemly wait. This was simply cruel and has not served justice in any way.

Such a long period for legal proceedings would assume a process of careful fact finding and consideration of what might be considered by some as delicate issues. It is surprising therefore that the police detective in charge of the investigation feels so confident in his public and unequivocal judgement of the accused person.

His forthright condemnation is quite outside the scope of his duties. All of us value the role of the police in our society, but I am certain that we have not given sanction for police officers to act as judge and jury in addition to their recognised and respected duties.

Given her circumstances, and apparent poor health, it is also hard to understand how she so comprehensively evaded meaningful assistance from the Health Service herself.

If she were guilty of the crimes as charged, would her mental health not be in question? If innocent, how could she be allowed to fall into such isolation and poor health? Where was the professional support that should have been offered to a person in need?

Finally there are newspapers and commentators, as well as the police, who have been unequivocal in their condemnation of her.

We all regret that the court has not had an opportunity to do their duty in considering the issues. It is shameful and tasteless in the extreme for journalists and editors to form such judgements, fuelling further fears, and failing to recognise that there are real live people behind their favoured version of events.

The events in this story are grave and sad for all involved. I regard the issues raised in this letter to be serious, and worthy of full consideration and reflection. It would surely be better for all parties to address these, rather than seek cheap and easy comment.

Mark Wogden

Skipton Road, Silsden

SIR - Am I alone in being hugely disappointed by the food festival event which took place last weekend?

I attended and very much enjoyed last year's event, and hoped for something similar this year. What a change! A poor setting with little space; a fraction of the number of stalls; virtually nothing from outside the area; and a hefty admission charge.

I assume that much of this had to do with the withdrawal of North Yorkshire County Council as a sponsor - if so it was a poor decision by them. The 2004 event drew thousands of people from a wide area to Skipton; word of mouth would have ensured a repeat of the event drew even more.

This year will have the opposite effect - I for one will not attend next year unless it changes radically.

The current organisers are obviously trying but they do not have the clout - or cash I guess - to match big public bodies. It would have been better to have organised a final Farmer's Market of the year - these events are excellent and always well supported, and are free!

Steve Willey,

The Coach House,

East Marton.

Editor's note: My impression was that most people greatly enjoyed the event and we hope a planned repeat will prove successful.

SIR - I feel the refurbishment of the exterior of what is now to be known as Strata Nightclub on Keighley Road, Skipton, has been carried out in a sympathetic way.

I am just sorry that the figures on the top have not been painted in relief. I wonder if anybody knows what they portray and why they are there?

Stanley Boothman

Dalacres Crescent, Embsay.

SIR - Referring to your article in A Craven Diary last Friday 30/9 regarding spiritualist Paul Norton ordering members of the audience to leave.

Whilst we were not kicked out, my daughters and I walked out in disgust at the way the whole presentation was conducted.

It seemed that both presenters were clutching at straws and were quite obnoxious when participants were not responding when there was nothing they could relate to.

These meetings are attended by bereaved people who are looking for some comfort and it was a mockery and insult to their loss.

We thought it was a rip off considering the admission fee and that the people of Settle should be made aware if the same programme is inflicted on them!

Mrs Shirley Hampson,

Park Wood Crescent, Skipton.

SIR - I have just read the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority's newspaper which contains the chilling announcement that the Park Authority, Craven District Council and Skipton Building Society intend to use the Park's statutory planning powers for the purpose of providing housing "for those who provide key services to our community".

Chilling because it smacks of the sort of social engineering with which an unelected body, such as the Park Authority, should not be involved, and especially not with a private sector company whose directors seem determined to use the money of its investors to pursue a social rather than a commercial aim. Of course the scheme is proposed with the best of possible motives, but unfortunately, because of the law of unintended consequences, the best of possible motives often become confused when they meet the real world.

The authority need look no further than the Labour Party conference where an eighty year old "heckler" found himself being held under well-meant anti-terrorist legislation, for proof of this.

Cannot the Park Authority see the quagmire it would be entering into should it have to choose between "key workers", especially if it were at odds with its partners, one or other of which might be pursuing a totally different agenda. For better or worse the planning responsibilities of the national park have been placed by Parliament in the hands of the authority and it should not seek to share them with any unelected commercial organisation, however attractive that might appear to be.

Should a planning decision be challenged and should that challenge be upheld on the basis of it being the result of a pre-arranged agreement involving a third party, the consequences for the authority could be serious.

John Weatherill

Heronwood, Flasby.

SIR - The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) expressed concern in the Craven Herald (Letters September 23) about perceived antipathy shown towards Muslims following the recent terrorist outrages.

Quite understandably, as a caring and religious body they "....wished to send their greetings to followers of the Islamic faith in our community in their joint efforts to walk together in the way of God".

Messages of a similar nature have been expressed many times under different circumstances by other Christian clergy in this newspaper. But paradoxically, there has been a conspicuous absence of heartfelt commentary or protest expressed on behalf of their numerous brother Christians of Protestant and Catholic faith, who are collectively and individually, victims of persecution in Islamic Asian and African countries amongst others.

Sadly these Christians can only dream of the liberties and cultural privileges taken for granted by Muslims living in Christian countries.

It would appear that the fate of these Christians does not seem an issue uppermost in the minds of senior or lay clerics. Could it be that there are more pressing politically correct issues on their moral compass that much better suit ecclesiastical taste than joining the protests requested by their oppressed co-religionists?

Mr AJA Smith

Colne Road, Glusburn.

SIR - Recently while holidaying in the Dales I had the misfortune to suffer a heart attack and was taken to the Airedale hospital.

May I thank, through your columns, all the health professionals from ambulance paramedics to cardiology consultants who looked after me so well. In particular the nurses on ward 16 (intensive care) and ward 1 who gave me confidence and reassurance, stopped my pain and made me better. I cannot praise them enough.

This hospital is five star in terms of patient care as far as I am concerned. However much our NHS is knocked it's good to know that when needed it comes up trumps. Thanks everyone at Airedale.

Philip Anderson,

Cherrytree Cottages,

Colton, Halesworth, Suffolk,

SIR - Happily, Skipton is still linked with Morecambe by rail.

Seventy years ago I was one of the bucket-and-spade brigade leaving the town at the start of the holiday week. Excited families packed the station.

In succeeding days, they met each other while strolling along the prom or looking for a tract of sand suitable for castle building. Morecambe was an inexpensive venue for Craven's honeymooning couples. Some told posh friends they had sojourned "on the west coast"!

The carefree days of my childhood were in my mind as I compiled my book Around Morecambe Bay, which has just been published as a hardback by Phillimore at £15.99. As I completed it, I read of the tragic deaths of Chinese cocklers, overswept by a tide which, in Morecambe Bay, is said to attain the speed of a fast horse. The folk I wrote about were from families who had lived by and on the bay for generations.

The book deals with a sweep of coastline and estuary from Heysham to Walney island. Not having many photographs of old-time Morecambe, I raided family photograph albums and discovered action-packed postcards sent to friends in Craven by those lucky enough to be having a break from the hard grind of daily life.

Among my tape-recordings I came across the voice of the much-loved actress Thora Hird, who spent her childhood among the fisherfolk at Morecambe. When she prayed, it was to a God who wore a fisherman's gansey and had a cloth cap and stick. She mentioned it to her mother, who replied: "How do we know God doesn't look like that?"

WR Mitchell,

Yealand Avenue, Giggleswick.

SIR - What on earth is going on at Craven District Council?

Coun Crawford assures us that council leader, Carl Lis, gives assurance that the Renaissance plan is certainly not an "all or nothing plan" whilst at the same time the Deputy leader, Coun English tells us it most certainly is, and Coun Heseltine as Craven representative on the Renaissance team agrees (via minutes) that it is.

Meanwhile that expensive and glossy publication 'Your Craven' also says it is a package, right next to a cheery exhortation to read about that exciting package from Coun Lis!

Is he now saying that he didn't bother to read the front page of his own publication, despite urging that we do?

Or that he doesn't agree with that publication, his deputy leader and Coun Heseltine?

For the moment Coun Crawford urges us all to move ahead in happy unity to this promised land of multi storey car parks and high rise flats which he describes as making Skipton a more attractive town.

Councillors, the public have spoken, the answer to that package is a resounding 'No', and it would bode well for councillors to remember that they are the servants of that public, not their masters.

Alan Perrow

Chairman, Craven Ratepayers' Action Group

Bannister Walk, Cowling.

* We welcome letters on a wide range of topics but reserve the right to omit, cut or amend all letters for production or legal reasons.