Unwanted disruption

Sir – Regarding quarry traffic in the centre of Settle. Stone is a valuable and much-needed commodity and Mr Moorhead hits the nail on the head when he writes about wagons catering for “local businesses” in the town.

If quarry wagons were, on a regular basis, using the garage and delivering essential supplies of stone to the town centre, they would be welcomed by many. Do they do this?

I have been involved, for more than 10 years now, with two organisations that work closely with both locals and visitors. During that time I have spoken with thousands of people and many have commented that they avoid Settle because of what they perceive as disruption caused by quarry wagons.

Dave Freer, Kirkgate, Settle

Use the railway

Sir – I am writing with reference to the letters ‘A necessary noise’ and ‘Unfair blame’ (Craven Herald, April 7).

No one denies the necessity of mining the valuable stone extracted from the quarries in Ribblesdale. Of course we all benefit from the roads, runways and houses which this stone goes on to create. What is not necessary is the noise, disruption and pollution created by transporting the stone by lorry.

All three quarries in Horton are situated alongside the Settle-Carlisle railway and the stone could, and should, be sent out by train. This would eliminate 15,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, making essential environmental improvements.

It is correct to say that the quarries have been in existence “since Noah was a lad”, but Noah would tell you that in his day, the stone went out by donkey and cart, then, latterly, by rail.

As Settle and the Yorkshire Dales National Park depend on tourism for their survival, let’s hope visitors (even those from Lancashire!) do not choose to stay away.

R Hudson, Wellington Road, London

Final consultation

Sir – Due to limited publicity, many of you may not know that the proposal for the Lower Greenfoot site, in Settle, has yet to go before the planning committee, and that another public consultation meeting is to be held North Yorkshire County Council, and its development partnership team, has called a further public meeting on the proposed redevelopment of the site – namely the provision of extra care housing and other community services and facilities.

It has been stated by North Yorkshire County Council that the original plans submitted to the Craven District Council planning department have been adjusted as a result of some of the concerns raised about the original scheme.

What changes have been made has yet to be revealed, but this is another opportunity to find out more about the scheme. All members of the development team will be there to provide information on the benefits of the scheme and its facilities, the allocation process for accommodation, the cost of apartments and annual service charges, the provision of care, the management of the construction, etc. All very positive.

However, it will be interesting to see whether the revised plans have addressed any of the major concerns that have been raised: * the inappropriate size, height, mass and density of the proposed development on this particular site and its impact in this particular location * the dominating and intrusive impact this development will have in several ways on a number of near neighbours * the implications of the proposed main entrance being off the narrowest part of Ingfield Lane, and the restricted number of on-site parking places * the provision of on-site services that could be in direct competition with similar businesses in Settle town centre * the proposal to relocate Settle library and the registrar’s office from the town centre to Lower Greenfoot * the probability that some employees, visitors of residents and users of the on-site community facilities – such as the library – will be encouraged/expected to use the Lower Greenfoot pay and display car park, as on-site car parking facilities are limited, etc.

This could be your final opportunity to find out more about this scheme and make your views known, before it is submitted for consideration by the Craven District Council planning committee – probably at their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, and which may well be held in Settle.

The public meeting is to be held on Thursday, April 21, between 2pm and 7pm, at the Royal Oak Hotel, Market Place, Settle.

David Abbott, Ingfield Lane, Settle

‘Sneaky’ marketing

Sir – Beware if you are one of the recipients of a form about postal votes attached to a mauve A4 poster urging you to vote for AV on May 5.

The return address for the form is given as Craven District Council, so you might be forgiven for thinking that they have sent it to you.

But in fact it has nothing to do with them. They have not sent it and, of course, would not send out electioneering material of this kind.

It is in fact a piece of sneaky marketing by a pressure group called ‘yestofairervotes’. The accompanying letter (in which you will be addressed by your Christian name – an added impertinence!) presents the case for AV, endorsed by a motley collection of “celebrities”. You are told to put the poster up in your window.

I believe this stuff to be at the least unethical, and I resent being sent it. The best place for it is the recycling bin.

We voters still have plenty of time to consider the important subject of AV and make up our own minds. And surely no one would be so naïve as to make their choice on the glib say-so of an actor, however famous.

This pressure group appears to have considerable contempt for the common sense of voters, and this is not an encouragement to espouse their viewpoint.

Miss S M Broadhead, Gladstone Street, Skipton

Professional advice

Sir – I hope you will allow me to clarify a news item in last week’s Craven Herald: ‘Chairman acted against code over housing scheme’.

The Herald quotes a Standards for England (SfE) report which states that Cowling Parish Council chairman Alan Perrow “approached a member of the public” to draft a survey on a proposed affordable housing development in Cowling.

For reasons known only to itself, SfE deemed it unnecessary to mention in its report that the “member of the public” approached by Coun Perrow was, in fact, a retired market research professional with over two decades’ experience in conducting opinion surveys for a clientele that included British Airways, Imperial Tobacco, ICI, and Unilever.

Standards for England was aware of this highly-relevant fact, having requested and received verbal and written evidence from the “member of the public” in question. I know this to be the case as I am that person.

As a former research professional, I am discomforted by the fact that in the wrong hands, the results of a poll or survey can be (and often are) manipulated by the wording – even the ordering – of the questions asked.

Take, for example, the conflicting results of two opposing public opinion surveys in 2004 on the Hunting with Dogs parliamentary bill.

The poll commissioned by the Countryside Alliance produced a predictably overwhelming rejection of the proposed ban, while that sponsored by The League Against Cruel Sports resulted in an equally predictable victory for opponents of the ‘sport’.

There are three distinct types of poll. (1) Those designed to produce the answers desired by the research’s sponsor. (2) Those designed to retrospectively justify decisions already taken. (3) Those designed to elicit truthful and accurate answers to provide reliable guidance on present or future projects.

In my professional opinion, the poll instigated by Coun Perrow and carried out by Cowling Parish Council rests firmly in category(3), while that carried out on behalf of Craven District Council, Muir Housing and its confederate, property developer Skipton Properties, languishes in category (1).

It is not that the latter’s survey was in itself flawed, but that two of the three parties were in a position to gain commercial benefit from the result of the survey.

This key fact was not made apparent in the Craven District Council/Muir Housing/Skipton Properties questionnaire, thereby breaching the Market Research Society’s Code of Conduct.

The latter requires that “Researchers shall be straightforward and honest in all their professional and business relationships”, and that “Researchers shall be transparent as to the subject and purpose of data collection.

I urge that the parties named above acquaint themselves with the MRS Code of Conduct before undertaking similar surveys in the future.

I should also like to make it clear that the advice I gave to Cowling Parish Council was on a strictly pro bono basis.

Peter Scott-Smith, The Green, Long Preston

‘Justified’ mistake

Sir – I can only apologise to Coun Polly English if I have sent the Craven Herald wrong information, but plead a little justification in that the figures I supplied are taken from the websites of North Yorkshire County Council and and North Yorkshire Police Authority respectively. The links, for those who wish to check such things, are: http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=11138 – in which it is also stated that Coun English was chair of the Craven Area Committee in the financial year 2009/10, the last on record of course.

http://www.nypa.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=718 – in which it states that Coun English attended no fewer than six meetings in that year to get her £10,715.38.

If the websites of these public bodies are incorrect, then that is hardly the fault of Craven Ratepayers’ Action Group.

As far as not getting three allowances for IT, again Coun English is being disingenuous. She received an allowance from North Yorkshire County Council in that they (we) paid for IT equipment, computer, printer etc. for the English household.

In addition to that, the English household received, and carried on receiving for some years, two lots of financial aid from Craven District Council (us again) to pay for the purchase of computers, printers, etc.

Alan Perrow, Craven Ratepayers’ Action Group, Bannister Walk, Cowling

Time for new blood

Sir – How genuinely exciting it is to see a total of 17 hopefuls battling for the four Skipton ward seats at the Craven District Council elections next month.

An optimist would see this as a reflection of democracy at work, and can be pleased at the level of interest the public has in local government.

But in reality, we all know why so many have put themselves forward for election: because we, as a town, are so outraged and disgusted at the appalling behaviour of this council in the last four to five years that we will do anything, even stretching to putting our own names forward, to rid ourselves of the current crop.

The list of crimes against this town has already been well-publicised, both within the pages of the Craven Herald and the appalled reaction from the public on this very letters page.

To list but a few: the practical giveaway of greenbelt land to HML; the frivolous spending of £4 million of ratepayers’ money – that’s yours and my money – on the white elephant of new council offices when the existing Granville Street site would have been perfectly adequate with building alterations at a fraction of the cost; the golden goodbye of an ex-chief executive of Craven District Council; the “losing” of £1 million in the council books, the reason for which never really came to light; and the threat of multi-storey car parks and an inner-city Arndale-style shopping precinct next to the town hall that would have come to fruition, had it not been for the clamour of rightful outrage from Skipton residents.

What really saddens me is how a council that was a force for so much good for the town back in the 1980s – the creation of Craven Court, the excellent regeneration of the streets and alleyways criss-crossing Sheep Street and Coach Street, and the development of the lovely walkway path through Skipton Woods around the back of the castle – could descend into this self-seeking bunch of individuals we see in front of us today.

And judging from the flat refusal of most of them to take any cut on allowances in these cash-straightened times, they appear to have an extremely high opinion of themselves.

Government auditors from the Comprehensive Area Assessment thought otherwise, judging this council to be “poor”. And we, the ratepayers, can clearly see that you have done more wrong for this town than good in the last few years, so the sooner we are rid of most of you, the better.

So, let us welcome an influx of new blood after May 5 and I, for one, will be only delighted to see more than a few departures.

Mark Verity, Raikes Road, Skipton

Gem of a picture

Sir – Stephen Garnett has surpassed himself with last week’s photograph of the whooper swans landing at Coniston Hall.

What is more amazing is that they are “where they have never seen before”.

Does Mr Garnett get a secret code from the swans as to where they will be?

At least, when he took one of myself in Cononley churchyard recently, it was pre-arranged!

Seriously, well done. The back page is turned to first to see the week’s gem on a Thursday morning.

David S Clarke, Crag View, Cononley