What’s the future of landmark store site?

SIR - The probable closure of Skipton’s Rackhams store will not only have a serious impact on the people working there but will potentially leave a very challenging ‘hole’ in the High Street, given the store’s size and prominence.

However, it is also possible that opportunities may emerge when thought is given to what could take its place.

The building fronts onto the High Street, but the back of the store looks over Rackhams’ own car park.

This area is, of course, adjacent to Skipton’s main public visitor car park, which has been the scene of major recent retail expansion.

Indeed, the busy Marks & Spencer food outlet is only a few yards from the entrance to the Rackhams car park.

So could consideration be given to a redevelopment which helps to create a customer-friendly link between this new retail area and the town’s traditional shopping ‘hub’ in the High Street, to the benefit of both?

There is, of course, already a partly covered walkway between the High Street and the Rackhams car park.

If this could be enhanced and made into more of a feature of the town centre it could fulfil an even more valuable role in providing an alternative walking route through to the main car park, in addition to the entrance by Skipton Town Hall, where the pavement is relatively narrow and pedestrians can often be seen meandering into the path of vehicles.

All this does rather suppose that someone will have the will and the means to produce a ‘masterplan’ for the Rackhams site.

Let us hope local government cutbacks do not undermine our ability to take advantage of any potential opportunities that may come from this undoubtedly sad situation.

JA Hitchon, C/O High Street, Skipton

Action needed over parking problems

SIR - As I consider what to write, I am reminded of the classic line made famous by John Mills in the 1966 film: “The Family Way”.

The one where he refers to the attitude of his son, who, together with his newly-acquired wife, played by Mills’ real life daughter, Hayley, is forced to continue living with his parents.

“He walks through here like it were a public convenience!”

Which brings me neatly to the rationale for writing this letter: to highlight the issue of car parking in the whole of the Town Head area of Settle.

An area that, by default, has metamorphosed into a longitudinal long and short term public car park as though the whole of it was provided for use as the proverbial “public convenience”.

With consequent potential for safety implications and negative impact on amenity value for all its residents, drivers and pedestrians alike are routinely forced to negotiate the daily chicane that is a clutter of (all too often) inconsiderately-parked vehicles - that is clearly an incident waiting to happen.

Residents of nearby Townhead Court, together with staff and patients using Townhead Surgery and health centre and those working in town routinely abandon their vehicles at the roadside, on the pavement and even across the pavement.

Added to those regulars is a daily stream of shoppers, trippers, and those taking to the hills.

Cars, vans and even motorhomes are often left all day in the situations I refer to ..... with many non-resident owners using the area for 24/7 parking.

Whilst I accept that there is no law preventing members of the public parking on a public highway, there is a part of me that finds this situation increasingly unacceptable.

Where, for example, do guests/visitors and/or service vehicles for residents of the Town Head area park their vehicles when the space is occupied by often long-term parked vehicles of non-residents?

To quote Harry Enfield’s Kevin: “it’s so unfair”, that, having spent thousands on providing off-road parking for ourselves that, by default, residents have provided parking for A. N. Other.

Indeed, the writer now routinely parks his car on the road outside his home, on the basis that if there is going to be a car parked there more or less permanently, it may as well be his own! Others take a similar view.

The background to all of this is manifold:

Townhead Court provides 40 apartments for those aged 55 plus, with parking provision for just 12 vehicles.

This, in an age when 75 per cent of households across the age spectrum have access to at least one vehicle.

Interestingly, the current Planning Portal requirements for new apartment block developments specify a ratio of 1.25 parking spaces per one-bedroom apartment and 1.5 per two-bedroom apartment.

Townhead Surgery has 43 staff based there plus visiting specialists, and sees up to 260 patients each day, most of whom travel there by car.

Planning Portal requirements for new doctors’ surgeries require the provision of one parking space per doctor plus one parking space per two other staff. And four parking spaces per consulting or treatment room. Just 10 spaces are currently provided on-site.

All of this, with Whitefriars car park and its real public convenience just a whisker away from Town Head.

From where the writer is sitting, it shouldn’t be beyond the combined wit of those at the helm of our community to come up with a corporate plan.

The notion of an agreement for surgery staff and patients to use the car park at a sensible rate, or FOC for the first say hour might be a way forward.

Then there’s the thought, rather than the Gallic shrug that claims nothing can be done, that Anchor Trust, who operate Townhead Court, make practical moves towards provision of commensurate car parking facilities for their residents, many of whom are clearly currently being badly let down.

Of course, the recent introduction of disc parking in Settle town centre has aggravated the situation at Town Head.

That said, the writer happens to agree with the scheme in principle. It clearly works for local businesses and the community in general.

I guess that the outcome I’d hope for is that this would be the catalyst for meaningful conversation tasked with finding mutually-considerate solutions to the increasingly-contentious issue of vehicle parking in the Town Head area of Settle. Would this be too much to ask?

Andy Shackleton, Townhead Avenue, Settle

Still no answers on the local housing query

SIR - I refer to the letters from Messrs AJA Smith and R Potter on housing (letters, May 31).

I would like to thank them both for their very detailed responses to my original request to Mr Smith (letters, May 24).

This was “Could Mr Smith inform us of the number of immigrants (legal or otherwise) who have had houses built especially for them in South Craven recently?”).

Unfortunately, your two correspondents have failed to answer this question therefore I am unable to thank them for anything.

Their responses appear to be a collection of statistics and various references, which may well be true, but don’t answer the question at all.

There are more subtle ways of avoiding questions to which you don’t know the answer, particularly if your own comments caused the question to be asked in the first place!

Finally, Mr Potter refers to a statement made by a particular party in 2004!

Surely even he must accept that in this fast moving difficult area all politicians will, and do, make errors of judgement and often pay the price.

How you deal with such events is called politics.

Tom Clinton

Immigrants and locals need a place to live

SIR - Much seems to be written in the Craven Herald about housing and the effects of immigration; the facts are simple.

Over the last four years, net immigration has averaged 284,000 per annum, allowing 2.3 persons/dwelling (national average) we have needed to build around 124,000 houses each year simply to fill immigration needs.

In addition we have our own increasing numbers, around 200,000 last year, and needing around 87,000 homes.

Two things are immediately apparent – the demand for housing is higher due to immigration than for indigenous growth, and we are not building sufficient housing.

Last year 184,000 were built, more than in recent years – but nowhere near enough, for allowing a lifespan of 200 years/dwelling, then a further 115,000/annum are required.

And so we have rapidly increasing house prices, not everywhere, but as an average.

London is a prime example of that, with an average terrace house in London, going from £285,000 in 2012 to £429,000 a mere five years later (Source Nationwide).

The answer is to either build very many more houses, forgetting about the impact on our wildlife, our quality of life, etc. or accept that this country needs fewer – not more – inhabitants, or a mixture of the two.

The numbers needed for immigrants, and there are now some 8.4 million immigrants in the UK, can be seen by the simple fact that over the last 10 years, 90% of the additional households created in England were headed by a person born abroad.

Whatever good qualities immigrants bring with them, and there are certainly many, they are not snails, they do not bring their houses with them – but they immediately need houses.

In this respect it is interesting to see that Skipton’s new town Labour Mayor has allegedly broken with the tradition of not being involved in politics, and has been actively encouraging a further referendum on the EU.

As we all know, the EU has a policy of unlimited immigration from the poorer Eastern countries to the richer Western ones, such as the UK, and we now have a million from Poland and getting on for half a million from Romania.

Does Cllr Alan Hickman have the backing of his party in this, the support of his fellow councillors, or the approbation of his constituents? The public really should be told.

Alan Perrow, Bannister Walk, Cowling

Please leave the poor pigeons out of this...

SIR - I read the couple of articles last week and the original one about the pigeons on the bridge over Keighley Road, Skipton, near the hospital (‘Call to clean up pigeons eyesore’).

From the pictures in the article, the waste could only have originated from humans not pigeons

I agree with Anne Reed, in that those that need educating are those who have four limbs and walk on two of them and can’t fly.

Leave the poor pigeons alone - if we weren’t so quick to destroy their habitat they wouldn’t be roosting in the areas that some people appear to find so irritating.

I would suggest the lady in the original article gets her window wipers checked on her car as they clearly need replacing!

Gemma Demaline, Consort Street, Skipton

Thanks for the great reaction to cash loss

SIR - Last Friday afternoon (June 8) I went to the Skipton Tesco store, getting some cash from the ATM outside before going in to buy some groceries.

I got a nasty surprise at the till when I found that the money I had just taken out had vanished, presumably dropped somewhere between there and the ATM, though I was able to pay for my shopping.

A nice surprise was to follow, however, as I checked with the store and discovered that the missing money had been handed in.

I don’t know who found the money, but I would like to thank that person, and the staff at the store, for ensuring it was returned to me, along with my faith in human nature.

Name and address supplied

Vital to speak up over issue of mental health

SIR - I agree with Javed Khan’s concerns regarding the mental health of our children, expressed in his letter in the Craven Herald’s issue on May 24 (‘A big problem that we must face up to’).

As the newly elected public governor for Craven, I know that the Bradford District Care NHS Trust is working hard to provide quality mental health services to people of all ages living in Craven.

I believe that it is not only children who desperately need better mental health services, but everyone - young, old and all in between - because we all have ‘mental health’ as well as ‘physical health’ that needs looking after to some degree or other.

I applaud with great enthusiasm the decision of the AWCCCG to keep Castleberg Hospital open, and to enhance the provision of care with new services in addition to those provided before the closure last year.

This gives opportunities for innovative services to be devised for the people of Craven, and other areas.

I hope that mental health services will feature significantly in the mix, and that with support from the BDCFT we can make a difference to the lives of local people living with mental health issues.

It is good that the Government has put in extra funding for mental health, but even though that extra money will go further than for the costly ‘high tech’ medical services, I fear it will be but a drop in the ocean in these times of austerity.

One role of the governors of the care trust is to seek assurance that the trust is providing quality services, and to represent the views of local people about those services.

My role as governor includes representing the Craven community, and taking their issues, concerns and suggestions to the trust.

I am prepared to fight the corner for the best value-for-money mental health services for our large area, but I can only do this if I know what the issues are, and what ideas you may have for improving care.

So please help me to do my job by getting in touch on 01274 363552 or email: cravengover nor@bdct.nhs.uk

Loretta Gooch, Midland Terrace, Hellifield

Policy on buying train tickets is ridiculous

SIR - For some months two men have stood for 13 hours daily at Cononley station to check tickets for passengers from Steeton and beyond.

They also sell tickets to Skipton, although there are barriers and ticket sellers there.

This is crazy. To catch fare dodgers, take on extra conductors at peak times.

The current rail bosses require passengers to buy tickets from machines in stations where there is no ticket office, instead of from conductors on the trains. The machines do not say when full fares or lower fares are required.

This is one of many reasons why conductors are needed, apart from passenger safety and needs of disabled.

Our brilliant local managers recently put up a notice - ‘New timetables will take effect from 20 May. Printed timetables will be available in stations from 1st June.’

These trifling illustrations show local train management is useless.

Minister Chris Grayling has a record of hiring disastrous contractors around England. He did the same with the prison service and probation, both of which he wrecked.

And who allowed colossal rail fare rises? If less people take trains, contractors fail.

Bob Holland, Skipton Road, Cononley

Putting record straight on closure of railway

SIR - In the Craven Herald of May 31, you referred to the closure in 1962 of the “Clitheroe” to Hellifield line (‘Talks held on more railway services’).

In fact it is the Blackburn-Hellifield line, which included Clitheroe, although services were restored as far as Clitheroe in the late 1980s.

Peculiarly one, sometimes two, trains proceed on summer Sundays beyond Clitheroe to Hellifield, which are subsidised by Lancashire County Council.

Robert Foster