WATER PRICES: EARLIER this year Northumbrian Water raised their prices by 15 per cent, well above the inflation rate.

I complained to Ofwat and was told the rise was justified as: "Northumbrian Water needed to be able to maintain their considerable assets".

Just the other day Northumbrian Water announced profits of over £100m which their spokesman gleefully put down solely to their being able to raise their prices considerably.

This leads me to think that if the 15 per cent rise covered the maintenance of assets and gave them a massive profit, then it was obviously too high. If they didn't maintain their assets and just made a massive profit, then the customer has been fleeced. Either way the customer has paid too much for no return.

When is the water supply going to be competitive like gas or electricity? Why can't the high street banks or the gas or electricity companies compete to supply water and drive prices down?

Why should Northumbrian Water have a monopoly? Ofwat should hold its head in shame. - John Briggs, Darlington.


I HAVE read so much about trying to get the public to use public transport more.

I would use public transport if the costs and reliability were up to scratch. It is supposed to cost 15p per mile to travel by car. So why does it cost 90p to travel by bus two miles to the town centre or £1.30 to travel four miles to Aycliffe.

Stagecoach buses seem to run whenever they feel like it; buses are taken off for no apparent reason. It certainly is that way if you live in Harrowgate Hill and rely on the 26, which is hopeless.

It was nice to hear the council has seen sense and reduced street parking around Duke Street area to 80p per hour. So is the bus more cost effective? - John Brant, Darlington.

Re the correspondence (Echo, May 31) about the Mowden Circular. Some of the buses used on this route are dire, particularly the dreaded double-decker which is rusty and not clean.

Is it used on any other route in the town? I doubt it. Difficult to board and even more difficult to exist, try standing up to press the overhead bell while hanging on to shopping bags, especially if you are old and not too steady on your feet.

It is time to monitor this route and solve the problem of unreliable timetables. - LM MacLean, Darlington.


AT a recent Town Centre Forum, Darlington town centre retailers were shown the plans for the proposed new Commercial Street shopping arcade, and asked for their feedback on this and other issues affecting the vitality of our town centre.

The overwhelming view expressed by the independent retailers present was that we did not wish to see our town become a clone of so many other towns and cities across the country, where the same multiple shops dominate the scene, in the same sanitised, characterless shopping centres. Yet, this is precisely what many fear will happen in Darlington. Already, the council has refused to listen to the civic trust and so many others who opposed the plans to remove our Victorian heritage from the High Row. Yes, it needed tidying up and pedestrianising, but why remove its unique character at the same time?

The view from the political leadership at the Town Centre Forum was that Darlington had to attract the big high street names to compete with other towns, which all offer the same thing.

We were told the new developments would have 'high quality' materials, and lots of glass walls. I can hardly contain my excitement.

I believe people are attracted to Darlington because it's a bit different. If our independent shops are further marginalised, while the prime locations are filled with chain stores, Darlington will lose its unique character.

The people of Darlington need to be invited to take part in a real debate about the future of our town centre - and the political leadership need to approach the subject with a genuine open mind - and really listen to what the people and traders have to say. - Mike Barker, Post House Wynd Darlington.


IN the article regarding the problem of fly-tipping on Aycliffe Industrial Estate, (Echo, June 9) Councillor Myers stated that it was unfair to blame the permit system for the problem without any evidence.

I would suggest that he visits this area to see the evidence for himself. We have been in the same premises for the last 15 years and, until the permit system was introduced, there wasn't a problem. The rubbish that has appeared since its introduction is not trade waste but mainly general household items that have obviously been transported to the tip in a van or trailer and then turned away.

Surely it is not beyond the common sense of the staff at the tip to distinguish between trade and household waste when vehicles arrive, as happens in other regions, and why should Sedgefield Borough have to fund the cleaning up of a problem brought about by Durham County's flawed waste management scheme.

As to the appointment of a fly-tipping enforcement officer, unless there is to be one stationed at every tip to follow people who are turned away, I fail to see how this appointment will make any difference. - Ian Simmonds, Aycliffe Industrial Estate.


DURHAM City intends to bulldoze popular sport and leisure facilities in favour of posh apartments.

This is the impression given by the glossy, hi-tech video presentation and accompanying questionnaire currently at the Durham Clayport Library.

The intended classy development is to be constructed following the destruction of the excellent Meridian Health Club and adjoining bowling centre.

The Meridian, which includes a swimming pool and gyms, is conveniently situated in the centre of town and enjoyed by young and old, general public and students alike.

Exercise is vital for health and Durham City has little enough in the way of facilities anyway.

The questionnaire carefully avoids any mention of the demolition of the Meridian Health Club or the bowling centre. Come on Durham, think again. - Rose Reeve, Durham.


I AM surprised the Oxford English Dictionary is attempting to definitively date the slang expression Mackem.

After all, the OED can't find space for Wearside or Wearsider - two words, well known to wordsmiths and in everyday use over many years.

So why include this Mackem nonsense? - Tom Purvis, Sunderland.

School Closure Debate

It must be equal: WHILE there will be nothing that can be done to prevent the closure of schools, we feel that the possible merger of Hurworth and Eastbourne should not be done at the cost of Eastbourne.

We disagree that the new school should be called Hurworth and feel that a new name would be appropriate so as not to make one better than the other.

We feel strongly that all teachers should be treated on merit over possible jobs and not as quoted "But, for Eastbourne teachers there may be job losses". Will there be job losses for Hurworth staff?

The children that are at Eastbourne now with some good teachers, need to remain positive. Our fear as parents is that the good teachers at Eastbourne will find more permanent positions leaving the remaining children at a disadvantage yet again.

While Eastbourne does have problems, so do other schools - but the constant bad publicity reflects on the school and disheartens pupils, staff and parents.

If a merger is to go ahead it needs to be done on an equal footing or those from Eastbourne will wrongly be made to feel inferior.

Good luck to everyone at Eastbourne and here's hoping the good, dedicated staff and pupils show Hurworth that we are as good as them - and not people to look down on. - D and P Pattison (parents of a pupil at Eastbourne), Darlington.

Fighting talk

AFTER leaving Hurworth parish council meeting I would like it to be known of the overwhelming feeling against the closure of our comprehensive school.

As a 31-year-old father of two toddlers, I was absolutely shell shocked by the closure announcement.

I have always taken comfort in having a settled family in a village with an outstanding school where my two girls would be given a chance to achieve whatever is in their ability.

I am a former pupil of Eastbourne School and I am not suggesting they do not have issues that are not to be addressed, but why should such a dramatic and risky decision be made that will have a detrimental effect on Hurworth pupils be taken in the first place? Is it to do with land value?

Having moved to the village three years ago to give my children a better chance of a good education, am I to move again?

Let the council education department know that they have got one big fight on their hands. There were a lot of angry parents, grandparents, parish councillors and residents at that meeting. If they think they can rip the heart out of the village they are sadly mistaken. Do they forget it is us who give them their income and jobs?

I hope that this letter is one of many you receive from people expressing their anger at this proposed closure. Please let the council know we will not give up. - George Adams, Hurworth.

Who decided what?

THE council states it will not be closing Hurworth, it will be moving the school to a new, modern building on the outskirts of Darlington.

The school will be called Hurworth School. This is adding insult to injury. Have the council really thought things through?

Personally I think not! Firstly they state that they currently have to transport 60 per cent of the pupils to Hurworth. Well logic would state that by moving the school to the outskirts of town, not only would they have to transport the pupils from Hurworth, and Middleton St George, they would also have to transport the pupils from town, consequently increasing transportation from 60 per cent to 100 per cent. Surely this is an increase in costs and a massive disruption to all families involved?

Secondly, the proposed site is near Cummins. Who thought about building a school near industrial buildings? The site will also be near Orange. There is enough controversy about mobile phone masts near schools, is this a suitable site? Again, I think not!

Has the council thought about the increase in traffic congestion? The top of Yarm Road is bad now. By increasing the traffic, surely this would get worse. - Nicola Bellwood, Hurworth.

Devastating news

I WAS devastated to hear the news that Hurworth School would be closing. This is the best school in town. How can the education department take that risk?

They say the school needs modernising, but why? It is fine, so what if the corridors are small?

In private schools there are small classes and their results are excellent. That shows it works. If it moves to a new site, with big classes, the teachers' time will be taken up with badly-behaved children.

I am a former pupil of Eastbourne School. That is why I don't want my children going there. I was one of the lucky ones.

I went up to the school about ten years ago advising people on a career in hairdressing. I was appalled, it was like a prison. It had cameras everywhere. Pupils shouted at teachers.

I feel sick to my stomach for the future education of my children. - L Adams, Hurworth.