ALL-WOMEN SHORTLIST: WHATEVER is happening in the Labour Party? As a lifelong supporter, I believe that imposing a women-only shortlist of candidates to replace Derek Foster, none of whom have any genuine connections with Bishop Auckland, is nonsense in the extreme.

One Tyneside candidate says she grew up on an estate like Woodhouse Close; another Teesside candidate suggests that Bishop Auckland "will do" (Echo, Feb 14). Compare this with a genuinely local man, County Councillor Phil Graham, who actually lived on Woodhouse Close Estate and is known for his work in the community.

Voters will no doubt wonder why local men, one of whom was born in the town, went to school in the town, worked in the town and has represented his community on Durham County Council, have been denied the chance to represent their locality in Parliament. If the party is serious about ensuring we have the best candidate to take over from Derek Foster then surely a great disservice has been done to us, the electors, by denying us the opportunity to vote for the best person regardless of gender.

And don't we have laws covering discrimination which should prevent this sort of thing? What outcry would there be if there was a men only shortlist? - B Bates, Shildon.


I AM sickened by the Cleveland councillors refusing to pay their parking tickets (Echo, Feb 16). Who do they think they are? Too grand to park in a public car park to go to a meeting just because they are councillors?

If they win their case, will it set a precedent that everyone who attends a meeting will have to be provided with a free parking space?

Shame they didn't car share (halving the cost of the fine) or even (a horrifying thought) take public transport - or are they too "precious" for that? - Jane M Jackson, Yarm.


AS A frequent visitor to Darlington, the structure and ambience of High Row is part of the town's charm.

For the council to ignore a petition of 4,600 citizens on a technicality is an insult to democracy (Echo, Feb 11).

When will councils realise that pedestrianisation is the death knell of small towns? It is all right if you have big name stores to front the development, but if not your small, independent, specialist shops disappear to be replaced by wine bars, charity and tourism shops.

Look at Stockton's once magnificent High Street since the dreaded 'P'-word struck. Its trade is now all out-of-town.

Darlington: fight to save what you've got, for once it disappears, you will end up with a bland high street. - R Harbron, Norton.

AS AN ex-Darlingtonian, I think the High Row scheme looks beautiful. A few bushes and perhaps pots of flowers in the summer would look lovely, much more homely and not so bare. - SG Hargrave, Ash Vale, Surrey.


COMMUTING for the past 18 months from Crook to Pity Me has allowed me many unhappy hours to ponder the congestion around Neville's Cross. "Too many cars" will be the official response, and in part that's true. Some of those vehicles are also poorly driven or selfishly parked.

But a significant cause of congestion, I believe, is that traffic engineers use incorrect assumptions. They believe that the more vehicles in a queue, the longer the traffic lights must be green in order to aid vehicle flow. Both Neville's Cross and Toll House Road along the A167 enjoy periods of green as long as 45 seconds during peak periods, with correspondingly long periods of red to compensate.

This is wrong. More frequent but shorter periods of green actually improve vehicle flows. If they tried doubling the frequency of light changes during peak periods to 15 to 20 seconds between changes, they would find that, not only will the queues be shorter, but it will also cost almost nothing to do. - Derek Thornton, Crook.

WHY didn't the planners make the A66 Darlington bypass a dual carriageway in the first place?

There are no extra roads being built for the office accommodation at Morton Palms. There are traffic hold ups there even before the offices are in use. No common sense among the planners.

The West Park development. Once again no extra road facilities. Why don't they make it dual carriageway from the Faverdale roundabout to the motorway? No common sense.

The council has been allowed a huge amount of money to ease traffic flow. Instead, it puts in more speed humps, more traffic lights and narrows the roads. No common sense. - S Johnson, Darlington.


I AM writing to praise Darlington council for supporting the Civic Theatre and to congratulate the theatre manager for bringing new drama of the calibre of Telstar to the region.

I saw the show on the opening night and what a great play it turned out to be, not least because of Con O'Neill as Joe Meek. You don't see many performances as powerful and moving as this in a whole lifetime of theatre-going. When the play goes to the West End he'll surely get the Olivier Award. - Ray Snaith, Newcastle.


CUTS in train services between Middlesbrough and Newcastle are having a serious affect on parking at Darlington Railway Station, as passengers switch to mainline trains. It is now impossible to find a parking place in either of the large car parks after 8am.

Every effort should be made to improve local train services and to encourage use of local trains. High quality roads do exist, but the A19 is one of the least pleasant driving experiences there is. I hope the North-East Assembly will be able to influence regional train strategy. - Elizabeth Conran, Barnard Castle.


AFTER reading about SureStart County Durham (Echo, Feb 11), I thought I could benefit, so I telephoned SureStart Wear Valley only to be told the scheme does not extend to Escomb. It only provides for Bishop Auckland areas etc.

As I pay council tax and rent to Wear Valley Council I feel isolated and discriminated against. Why is it only main towns can join and benefit? - Ann Collins, Escomb.

I WAS quite angry when I read my housing matters newsletter from Wear Valley Council. It states that 200 modern, well laid out, fitted kitchens will be provided to homes in Willington and Bishop Auckland, and 100 addresses in Bishop Auckland will benefit from new bathroom suites.

How does the council know which areas need these new things? I pay my rent and council tax, but I have not been asked if my home needs any of those new things.

The council only seems to care about rundown areas, which I don't think is fair. I think Wear Valley Council forgets about Escomb Village. - Name supplied, Escomb.


WHILE the Office of National Statistics states that the rate of inflation is 1.7 per cent, Durham County Council have indicated that the council tax for 2004-2005 could increase by 4.5 per cent.

With fuel costs also due to rise, how can this Government-controlled body reconcile the figures? - GE Moffat, Gosforth.