Sir – Those of your readers who have noticed that the developers are now in possession of the 9 High Street, Skipton, site might be forgiven for thinking that the deal has been done and there is, therefore, no further justification for withholding information. After all, it is a public asset that is being sold so the public is entitled to know what has been happening in its name. Unfortunately your readers would be wrong.

Shortly after possession was handed over I was thinking on similar lines and asked for copies of the professional valuations that had persuaded Craven District Council to sell an asset it had purchased in 1989 for £985,000, then to add to it a large slice of income producing parking area, and to sell the whole for £850,000.

My request was refused on the grounds that such information was commercially sensitive. Quite apart from anything else, the valuations might have explained what had happened to market inflation since 1989. They might also have explained why the council had found it necessary to finance the developers by taking only a part of the purchase price on handing over of possession, leaving the balance outstanding until the shell and core of the building had been completed.

Surely it is the business of banks, not local authorities, to finance developers.

Fortunately the Freedom of Information Act recognises the public interest is central in deciding whether information should be withheld and I am hoping that the Information Commissioner will pay more attention to this concept than has the council. The people of Craven have already seen the land in Gargrave Road sold to Skipton Building Society at a price £485,000 less than the market value established by the district valuer, so it is to be hoped we are not seeing the same thing happening again.

John Weatherill, Heronwood, Flasby

Development concern

Sir – I wish to alert your readers to the two links (details below) which show potential developments in Craven outside the National Park. These sites have been put forward for development and have passed Craven District Council’s first attempt to eliminate unsuitable areas for development.

The remaining sites, and they are extensive, are now subject to further scrutiny to determine which, if any, have constraints which would render the site unsuitable for further consideration. My concern is that the information for each site is accurate and does not contain errors or omissions. Constraints may not render a site safe from development but could ensure that important areas and landscape and heritage features are protected. This is important in so many ways. We need development but it must be that nebulous term “sustainable”. It should aim to maintain the integrity of our market towns and villages and protect and enhance our rural environment. Once habitats are compromised or lost, they are gone forever.

If you are interested in the future shape of Craven, I would urge you to look at these maps and reports, check the sites in your area and report any discrepancies. Public consultation will follow, scheduled I understand in March but don’t wait until then. Take a look now – it may (or perhaps not) surprise you. article/3846/SHLAA-Site-Settlement-Maps article/3847/SHLAA-Site-Reports-and-Maps

Jill Wilson, Aireville Grange, Skipton

Burial ground opening

Sir – I was very interested in reading the article in the Craven Herald regarding the opening of the old burial ground on Raikes Road.

I wrote to the paper many years ago on this subject when I was a child and walked up Raikes Road. I was intrigued as to who was laid to rest there for many years and nobody was allowed in to offer a prayer. You could not see into it because the wall was so high and the gates were always locked with a padlock.

There must be some very old gravestones of interest to Skipton people and of families that have lived in Skipton for centuries.

My mother’s family Phillip were business people butchers and innkeepers and lived in Devonshire House from 1856-1925.

I hope Mrs Robinson (no relation) makes a success of this project.

I am sorry to say that as I am in my 90s now I do not think I shall be lucky enough to see this jewel of the crown re-opened.

I do remember a councillor saying at the time of my letter that he was interested in opening it to the public.

I have many memories Skipton, including the market, the beautiful Skipton woods, the proud and lovely standing parish church, the historic castle, the town hall with its splendid canopy (no longer there) and the magnificent High Street with its much talked about setts.

Alice Robinson, Rotherham

Herald to blame

Sir – What on earth is your paper thinking of?

The small article on the back page of the February 7 edition describes a potential theft as a “moral dilemma”.

It tells how a lady returned to Tescos to pay for an item she had mistakenly taken out through the check-out and the author of the article describes doing so as a “moral dilemma”.

Since when is to steal or not to steal a “moral dilemma”?

And to make matters worse, not only is one apparently supposed to be prepared to condone a theft done in such a way but we are supposed to be prepared to have the fact published and find the whole matter funny.

Craven has one of the lowest crime rates in the whole of the country, a fact we can be proud of, but you publishing such as article does nothing to your credit and sets a very poor example to young people learning to cope with life and if we see a reversal of those figures you can hold yourselves at least in part responsible.

John Kerwin-Davey, Newmarket Street, Skipton

Anger at bus loss

Sir - This is an open letter to Transdev concerning the closure of X59 service between Skipton and Harrogate.

I heard Transdev is unilaterally closing the service with no consultation, just a simple decision to chop its head off.

It is surprising that they give their customers just one month’s notice. These are people who have used the services week in, week out, for many years.

In my opinion, by putting the non-brains of government, councils etc together, nobody puts the needs of people first.

And if it’s a problem of not breaking even, why didn’t you consider a small surcharge in order to avoid a complete stoppage, which is a lifeline to many people in the area?

I could go on but disappointed is not the word – it is much worse than that as I look upon transport as a public service.

Instead, you appear to want to bring this country to a standstill. Please reply as I am outraged along with many others.

Alan Lunn, Harrogate

Not surprised by axe

Sir – I was shocked but not surprised to read of the withdrawal of the Harrogate bus service, even in its reduced state. The bus was always full, but since it was mostly used by old people with bus passes, it was of no possible value to the community.

Of course, the buses which go between Harrogate and Knaresborough every 10 minutes (about 80 per day) are all packed with full-fare-paying people, as are all the double-deckers which go between Harrogate and Leeds and Harrogate and Ripon every 20 minutes (about 40 a day). Wetherby gets 20 buses a day too. We are going from one round trip to nothing.

We all pay the same amount to the county council. Getting to Harrogate is a long expensive nightmare using any other form of public transport, and we are constantly being told that those who can afford cars should use them less. Now we can travel into West Yorkshire or Lancashire, but not into the rest of the county to which we are obliged to pay council tax.

Ella Hatfield, Skipton

Pedestrian ban wishlist

Sir – As a pedestrian I would like to ban:

* golf umbrellas except on the golf course n cars parked half on the pavement

* hedges that overhang the pavement there by impeding the progress of pedestrians

* landlords who do not maintain the gutters thus causing pedestrians to get wet when it rains

* cylists on the pavement

* car drivers who fail to indicate which way they are turning n selfish dog owners (even if they pay their taxes!)

I am sure other people can add to this list.

C Rawson, Park Street, Skipton

Protect our NHS

Sir – There is no overlooking that the National Health Service is in a parlous state.

Too many managers, too few health professionals, too many services being withdrawn, too many hospitals going bankrupt and too little accountability for what has happened.

Another huge change is looming that could alter the National Health Service even more dramatically than the collapse of the hospital service.

From April GPs will be responsible for budgetary control of how money for hospital treatment will be spent.

This decision has been taken notwithstanding that GP representative bodies have argued against the change and there has been little public discussion.

Also, the respected NHS National Institute of Health Research described GPs as unsuitable for this purpose.

At the stroke of a Whitehall pen, GPs, whose responsibility has been to look after and to represent their patients in securing hospital treatment, will be required to ration care and treatment in accordance with budget limits that are pre-set and out with their control.

The Commissioning Group [CG] of GPs representing practices in the Craven area have rejected a request to act ethically in performing their budget control task, and notwithstanding that behaving ethically is a requirement of every professional body and, so far as GPs are concerned there is ample advice and interpretation from their professional bodies such as the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

There is no doubt that some patients in the Craven Commissioning Group [CCG] area will continue to receive good care and treatment. For example, in my town of Ilkley, patients of both local general practices as well as in nearby Addingham and Burley-in-Wharfedale are very well served.

However, other areas may not be so fortunate and it is not beyond consideration that what is less well done in one part may come in time to reflect the norm throughout the area.

There is a risk is that the health service will decline further.

The solution now lies with patients and those [including their GPs and Members of Parliament] who represent them. Every general practice has a Patients’ Participation Group [PPG] to discuss concerns with their GPs.

An active PPG can work with their GP to secure good care for themselves and families and can empower the same GPs to bring good practice to the attention of other practices in their area.

Patients can also sign up to and support the Foundation Trust of their local general hospital. In this way, problems of health care can be shared and addressed instead of being fought over.

And for anyone with computer access, “38 Degrees” is a campaigning body that can help coordinate actions and petitions to restore the NHS – please visit their web-site for further information.

Successive governments have stood back from direct oversight of health services in UK and have allowed a reduction in what was once the best National Health Service in the World.

It is now up to patients and their families to come forward to protect our National Health Service. Please, please do what you can to participate in watching over our National Health Service.

Philip Chinque, Ilkley

Police praised

Sir – My friend Rosalind Wilson from Leeds and I were staying at the Lion Hotel in Settle for three days’ hillwalking.

On Saturday, February 2, Rosalind put her bag down on a seat in the town square and forgot it.

We went off for our walk and at the end of the walk she realised she didn’t have her bag.

We went to the police station in Settle and there it was. Sergeant Les Moorhouse had spotted it and had verified we were staying at the Lion and it was waiting for us in the station. Well done Settle police force!

John Sillince, Glasgow

Tackle litter together

Sir – Complain, complain complain! Everyone must realize Craven District Council has six men to do thousands of miles of roads in the Craven area. Unless we, the people, keep the area free of litter, no one else will.

As an experienced “professional” litter picker it seems there are definite culprits who spoil the countryside and they are listed in no specific order: Smokers – who throw away the cellophane wrapping as well as the actual packets Farmers – who let their plastic bags go flying away Students – particularly at Aireville and Craven College who spoil the entrance to Aireville Park from Gargrave Road (and the teachers who never ask them to keep it clear or go out and clear it themselves).

Mothers and fathers of small children who do not pick up after their children – often at school gates.

People who go to fast food takeaways and discard their containers after eating.

People who have car accidents – wing mirrors, fenders, broken glass, hub caps etc all left with gay abandon.

The worst detritus is the dainty little dog waste bags often neatly stuffed into walls. The plastic does not bio-degrade and these squidgy bags are fairly revolting to have to deal with – but someone has to do it otherwise they would stay there forever.

Tissues and sweet papers falling out of walkers’ pockets.

Plastic bottles, beer cans, soft drink cans and glass bottles thrown by car, van, lorry drivers and some cyclists.

If everyone in the area could just look outside their homes and litter pick 10 metres in either direction, especially people who live on main roads, the problem would not be solved but we could keep on top of it so that it would not accumulate.

When one bottle is thrown, it gives another thoughtless person carte blanche to throw another bottle and they do not feel guilty because the area is already littered.

To the litter droppers and especially the dog bag droppers – please do try to stop!

Complaining will really not do any good – stick your heads above the parapet and do something about it, otherwise the area will go back to how it used to be before litter awareness campaigns started. If everyone could do a tiny bit we could keep on top of it, to the benefit of all and it is considered a very rewarding pastime.

B Leder, Grassington

Food chain concerns

Sir - Consumers are quite right to be concerned about horsemeat in the food chain.

However, we should all be much more concerned about the welfare of animals at the point of slaughter and the subsequent lack of detailed labelling of the things we eat and drink.

A high percentage of animals in the UK endure religious slaughter (ie their throat is cut) without any pre stunning.

This barbaric practice is condemned by the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and many others.

In 2003 the Farm Animal Welfare Council (a Government body) stated: “Halal and Kosher slaughter must stop and causes severe cruelty to animals”.

The Government’s failure to tackle this issue and demand specific labelling of meat as Halal or non-Halal in retail outlets, cafes, pubs, schools etc is a disgrace.

Consumers have the right to know about the origins of their food, including how it was slaughtered and prepared.

Clear labelling (not simply fat, salt, sugar, kcal content) would benefit both Muslims and non-Muslims. Ironically, some enlightened imans are also demanding change.

Until this happens I urge everyone to ask if their meat is Halal or non-Halal and ask why it is not labelled as such.

This may encourage Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to get down off the fence and join the 21st century.

Malcolm Keighley, Hill Rise, Skipton

No parking restrictions

Sir –We were recently taking a break in the Dales and enjoying the lovely scenery, cosy pubs and friendly folk. Until we reached Grassington.

There we found a rash of “parking for residents only” signs fixed to many garden walls.

These signs are unlawful and meaningless as there are no parking restrictions or yellow lines. I parked clear of driveways and garages but was met by an aggressive, abusive resident who demanded to know my name and address.

We had a lively discussion as I explained that I had every right to park on a public road, just as he does when he visits my hometown.

This is the law. I declined to move my car and suggested he call the police.

Eventually he returned to his house.

However, I would suggest that this is not the way to treat visitors in a tourist dependent area.

When you chose to live in a ‘honey pot’, you must expect visitors.

If I had a business in the village I would be very concerned by this petty policy.

Over the years we have spent a lot of money in Grassington – but not anymore.

Dave Smith, Otley Road, Leeds