Sir - At its meeting on October 7, Craven District Council finally acknowledged that it “cannot demonstrate that it complied with the relevant legislation” at the time the decision was taken to sell the land in Gargrave Road to Skipton Building Society – which is a polite way of saying that it had ignored all Parliamentary laws and Government advice in its haste to complete that sale under the cover of secrecy. As a result, it was in the position of having to pass a fresh resolution to confirm the original decision, which caused one councillor to inquire what would happen if the resolution was not passed as the actual sale was now a fait accompli.

No answer was given to his query but, more worryingly, neither was any indignation shown nor query raised as to how councillors could have been advised at the time of the original decision that the value of the land was £840,000 (being the price at which it was sold) when the District Auditor now informs them that the true value at that time (based on a valuation following the criteria laid down by the appropriate legislation) was £1,325,000. It seemed that councillors were prepared to accept without questioning that they had been misled into thinking they were selling at market value when even a cursory glance at the legislation should have warned their officers that they were selling at a figure £485,000 below market value.

Would they have acted in the same way had they known of the level of generosity with public funds they were offering to a commercial organisation?

To the outsider, the explanation for this debacle is obvious. The council was able to commit itself to a sale on the strength of a decision which has now had to be confirmed, precisely because that decision was made behind closed doors, free from public scrutiny.

A council official charged with the job of investigating the situation seemed to confirm this when she referred to the fact that there had been a lack of transparency. While councillors cannot be blamed for making decisions on misleading figures presented to them by officers who should have known better, they can be blamed for allowing their deliberations to be conducted in secret.

And the question has to be asked – and asked again – when will they learn that openness with their electors is the best policy and that to maintain secrecy for the benefit of some to the exclusion of others is the worst.

John Weatherill, Heronwood, Flasby

Inquiry needed

Sir - Well, at least we have it out in the open – Craven District Council had allowed itself to be done on the land sold to the Skipton Building Society at more that £400,000 below market value, a fraction of which would have kept all those voluntary groups running.

A number of us thought there was a problem but, as usual with this slippery group of politicians and officers, no-one was saying until now.

So what can we expect? Not even a flimsy attempt by Coun Knowles-Fitton, leader of the council, to get angry and outraged on behalf of the ratepayers of the council. Why is no inquiry launched?

The issue of getting both an unrestricted and restricted valuation on the land would seem to be so obvious that no senior officer, acting in the best interests of the council, could have failed to obtain them.

Why do they not consider re-visiting issues relating to senior officers and looking at whether the money can be re-claimed from anyone or anywhere?

I expect the Society knew they were getting a great deal. They don’t operate in land purchases and mortgages without knowing that the land was undervalued. So what is their role in all this?

Are they prepared to offer, for example, half of the £400,000 back to the people of Skipton? I don’t think so. But for all that, Coun Knowles-Fitton has nothing but praise for the Society!

Now is the time for local politicians to get strong, to work for the people who pay their expenses, but who seem to get little in return.

In these difficult economic times, heaven help us, because one thing is for certain – Craven District won’t!

Miles Bailey, Parkwood Drive, Skipton

Growth points

Sir - As residents of Sutton-in-Craven for almost 30 years, we wish to express concern that the South Craven area has been earmarked as a Growth Point for the Leeds City Region.

1) Sutton, Glusburn and Cross Hills do not have adequate local services, roads or public transport to accommodate a large increase in houses over a short period. Provision (and a lot of ratepayers’ money) has already been made in the LDP for the area to grow slowly to meet natural population growth. That has been accepted as essential by local people, but not a rapid growth to help fulfil some “masterplan”.

2) Our highly successful local schools do not have the capacity to accept a rapid influx of pupils; some are even oversubscribed.

3) The medical facilities are good, but under increasing pressure (especially the A& E Department at Airedale General Hospital since the closure of Burnley Hospital A&E Department). Further rapid increase in the local population would almost certainly result in a reduced service to everyone.

4) The villages of South Craven are reputed to be going to lose their local police station, but more houses mean more people and thus more need for police services, not less!

5) More than 50 houses in South Craven were badly flooded in 2004, ours being one. We were not previously considered a flood risk area, but if houses are built on valley bottom land, on known flood plains, risks will increase. Environmental impact assessments need to be made before such land is built on and these take time and money; time which is not available if decisions have to be made in the next few days.

6) Much is made of the rail links to Leeds, but these are oversubscribed at peak times. There is also a “carrot” of a railway station at Cross Hills. This would have the effect of further closure of the Kildwick level crossing, causing increased traffic congestion along the Skipton- Eastburn-Keighley road, forcing traffic down Station Road. This would be compounded by a sizeable growth in both local and commuter traffic.

7) South Craven, and Craven as a whole, does not have a natural, economic or historical affinity with Leeds. If new jobs are to be created, and in this economic climate that appears wishful thinking, then surely the jobs should not be centralised in Leeds, but rather spread around the region.

In conclusion, much of the long-term infrastructure required for a rapid housing development and population growth will have to be funded by North Yorkshire ratepayers to the detriment of the people of Craven District and of all North Yorkshire, to benefit Leeds.

We ask that the council does not support making the South Craven area into a dormitory town for Leeds. Once started, the creep of urbanisation will advance further until Skipton and the villages of Craven have been swallowed up and the very Dales are threatened.

DS and M Johnson, The Hawthorns, Sutton-in-Craven

Heritage error

Sir - In the “Our Heritage” section of the Craven Herald (October 10) there was an excellent article “Churches led the way in Education”.

The article was a timely reminder that the state’s contribution came very late in England.

It was also a tribute to the various churches that provided education in the town and surrounding district well before state involvement following the Forster Education Act, which set up School Boards in 1870.

This excellent article did, however, have one error. Your researcher states that “in Burnsall and (other places) school boards were set up to run the village schools”.

The village school in Burnsall was established as long ago as 1602 by Sir William Craven and pre-dates all local schools except Ermysted’s Grammar School, which was endowed 44 years before Burnsall.

Sir William Craven was born in Appletreewick in 1548 of a poor family. When he was a teenager, the Rector of Burnsall found William a job in London as an apprentice tailor. William did very well in the big city.

He became a warden of the Merchant Taylor’s Company, was knighted by King James I in 1603 and became Lord Mayor of London in 1610.

He devoted some of his great wealth to founding the school, repairing the village church and building bridges over the River Wharfe. Locally he is often referred to as the Dick Whittington of the Dales. Burnsall School owes its existence to William Craven and four centuries later it still serves the rural communities of Appletreewick, Burnsall, Hebden, Skyreholme and Thorpe. It has always been managed by trustees representing these villages and was never a board school.

Although Burnsall was not founded by the church, it maintains strong links with the local church to which Sir William owed so much and the school continues its Christian tradition to this day.

Further information may be obtained from the school’s website:

John Townend, hon archivist, Parish of St Wilfrid Burnsall and school trustee appointed by the Earl of Craven, The Manor House, Thorpe sub Montem

Parking problems

Sir - As a resident of Water Street in Earby, I am in full agreement with Earby Parish Council regarding the real nuisance and potential danger caused by people parking their cars on the single yellow line area by the shops in the narrow part of Water Street, in particular outside the chip shop.

Since the mini-roundabout was added to the junction, the congestion has worsened as, when vehicles park there, the blockage causes traffic to get stuck on the roundabout. The addition of the roundabout has not improved the flow of traffic and large delivery lorries block the roundabout exits.

I use this junction every day and often have to wait on the roundabout because someone has parked outside the chip shop, very close to the roundabout exit, and if cars are parked on the other side of the road as well it’s like a slalom course to get through the narrow section of road.

I appreciate the opinions of local shop owners regarding loss of trade if people can’t park outside their shops, but they should not have to worry as there is a parking area just a few yards away near the library which shoppers could use. If people weren’t so lazy about walking short distances then the problem would not exist.

Disabled drivers, of course, can park outside the shops if they have the disabled parking permit, but most of those who park thoughtlessly – and illegally – are perfectly capable of walking and just can’t be bothered.

Given the choice of Parkwise monitoring, which will be haphazard and not necessarily present at the right time, or the introduction of double yellow lines, I think the latter is the best option. There are many traffic rules broken in Earby regarding speeding and illegal parking and I believe that strong measures are called for.

Tessa Bird, Water Street, Earby

Failed technology

Sir - Is it true that wind turbines do not blight the landscape? Are anti-wind farm campaigners acting from self interest? Our answer to Richard Collett and Dan Thompson (Letters, October 10) is “No” on both counts.

Increasingly, planning bodies and the appeals system are turning down applications to build wind farms. Ask EnergieKontor; in the last 12 months they have seen three applications turned down.

Yes, at the start we knew little about Bank Newton’s bats, but when people with genuine concerns asked us to help, we did the research then stepped up to the mark. Likewise with landscape policies, cultural heritage, traffic, country pursuits, tourism and electricity bills secretly padded with wind energy subsidies.

Let’s be frank – industrial wind turbines are a failed technology; the only way to get more power from them is to make them bigger. Even at 100 metres tall, each Brightenber turbine will average only 500 kilowatts; enough to run about 280 hairdryers. I am not making this up; wind energy is such a poor generating tool that, without those massive subsidies, no-one would build them. Finally, to suggest that objectors act from self interest is to do a disservice to nearly 1,200 who wrote objection letters and the many hundreds who signed petitions. Borough and parish councils have held special meetings to discuss the issue; 12 have lodged formal objections. Make no mistake; people are worried and they are angry.

We respect everyone’s right to disagree with us, but let’s keep sight of the facts.

Chris Emmett, Friends of Craven Landscape, PO Box 46, Skipton

Spin denial

Sir - I was surprised by Sandy Tod’s response (Letters, October 3) to my light-hearted letter pointing out the apparent environmental discrepancy in his suggestion that “walkers, cyclists and other visitors” could drive to the Lake District or North York Moors to escape the proposed Brightenber windfarm.

I took this to mean local visitors, like myself, but Mr Tod now insists he meant visitors from afar. I suppose we must take his word for that, despite his earlier statement that “Brightenber Hill is not a tourist destination”.

Given that earlier comment, however, I hardly think that my letter constitutes either spin or distorting the facts.

If his mention of “anti-wind farm campaigners’” is a reference to me it may surprise him to learn that I am not a campaigner – unless my letter to this newspaper qualifies me as such in his eyes – nor a member of any group, either pro or anti, nor even an official objector. But I do enjoy a quiet chuckle at the odd bits of nonsense I come across.

Terry Fletcher, The Old Corn Mill, Glusburn

Thanks for writing

Sir - I am writing to thank Lynn Schofield, of Darwen, who took the time to write in (Letters, October 3) to thank us for keeping her bag safe for her when it was left at our coffee shop, Verdes in Skipton. How many people would bother to do that these days? I would hope that any establishment would do the same as we did, but perhaps it is a sign of the times that this lady would think it unusual!

Jan Moss, Verdes, Swadford Street, Skipton

Animal gratitude

Sir - Animal Aid would like to thank the people of Hawes for the generosity in raising over £80 during a street stall and collection on the 25th of last month.

The money will help fund our peaceful campaigns and our important educational work on all aspects of animal cruelty.

For more information on how to prevent animal cruelty, please call Animal Aid on (01732) 364546.

D Hutton, Animal Aid collection co-ordinator, St John’s Row, Langcliffe

Keep up the fight

Sir - I am shocked and appalled by the latest chapter in our fight to prevent the construction of 74 houses in Glusburn.

After the unanimous decision to object, now we are hearing that the planning committee will not contest an appeal!

What is happening?

I implore you to urge your readers who have a heartfelt interest in the prevention of the construction of these dwellings to keep on the watch for the public meeting, sometime on or after October 20 (date and time to be announced) and attend in unity.

Let’s not give up our fight against this appeal and new submission.

Mrs D Cook, Bungalow Road, Glusburn