Sir, - In your page one report on February 6 you state that an accident in Bilsdale was "triggered by a rambler who failed to close a farm gate".

However, it was admitted that the walker "was not identified". In that case there is no evidence that a rambler was responsible. This is just an assertion made by the farmer and this should have been made clear by your newspaper.

I can understand that the farmer and his insurers will try to avoid liability and so need to claim that someone else was responsible for leaving the gate open but that is no reason why they should try to pin the blame on an unknown rambler.

It is not so long ago that farmers were claiming that ramblers started the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease by dropping ham sandwiches. We all know now that FMD was caused by shoddy farming practice.

I suggest that there may be other possible explanations for how the cattle got out in this case. Even if the gate was indeed left open by some unknown person then it could have been a forgetful neighbour or even local children. Why blame an unknown rambler?

The NFU points out that "visitors to the countryside also have obligations" as well as rights. I quite agree but the reference to the Right to Roam legislation is just a red herring that has nothing whatsoever to do with this case.

Ramblers know and love the countryside even though they do not own it.

We know that if we need to open a gate we must also close it, even if it is in poor condition as is sometimes the case. However, we also have to climb over many gates and other obstructions that illegally block rights of way.

I have also stopped my car to drive a herd of sheep back off the road into a field with a fence in disrepair. The rather careless farmer in question was rather surly when I pointed this out.



Complacent leader

Sir, - The complacency of Coun Barker, leader of Hambleton District Council, is astonishing. Four weeks ago, responding to criticism of planning decisions, he said he could not discuss individual cases but he was sure the authority had acted properly at all times (D&S, Jan 9).

His confidence is misplaced. Last month the council's director of planning belatedly apologised to me for its failure to enforce a planning condition the result of which was severe flooding to the shop at Thirsk then owned by my wife and her sister.

He also apologised for his repeated evasions, for blaming Yorkshire Water when they had not been consulted, for three times explaining the law incorrectly, for insultingly suggesting the matter was trivial and for failing to put things right.

The matters for which the director apologised formed a pattern of unprofessional behaviour over many months. Even when apologising he declined again to ensure the minimum steps recommended by Yorkshire Water were implemented. These steps are being taken now, more than two years after they were first brought to the council's attention, but only after I warned him the whole affair would be made public.

These failings are not peculiar to us. Many of your readers have contacted me to say they too have suffered similarly at the hands of Hambleton's planners.

It is clear standards in the department leave a lot to be desired. If Coun Barker had looked into our case - and alerted by my correspondence with the council and my letters in your columns he should have looked - then he would have found this for himself.

Yet now he is at it again. He says: "The development control committee would surely refuse permission for any scheme deemed to have a risk of flooding" (D&S, Jan 30). Would they indeed?

At the public meeting held at Thirsk after the major floods three years ago, parish councillors said they had warned Hambleton council the nursery gardens site flooded. They were ignored, the development went ahead and properties were duly flooded. The development was approved subject to a condition that surface-water drainage plans must first be approved but plans were never submitted.

When asserting his council always acts properly and would not approve a scheme with risks of flooding Coun Barker deludes himself. His delusions fly in the face of the evidence.


Borrowby Avenue,


More guts needed?

Sir, - Responding to the letter (D&S, Feb 6) from Shirley Fletcher et al about the re-opening of the Saltburn Gallery, I was prompted to consider what this first exhibition - as opposed to the individual exhibits - said to me, a member of the public in East Cleveland.

The first message that I took was that I should be questioning the boundaries between art and the rest of life - a fair point, but not new, even in East Cleveland.

The second was that I should know what sort of work is being produced by recent art school graduates. Fair enough, once again, so far as it goes. But may I, I wonder, look forward in due course to challenges and satisfactions besides those of theory and fashion in art?

Having gone straight from the exhibition to a nearby private house with a rich collection of original pictures and objets d'art by contemporary artists, many of them local, I began to question the boundaries between the gallery and the rest of Saltburn.

I wonder if the area really needs the gallery, unless it can connect with the community in a gutsier way than this flagship event seems to promise.


Hill View Terrace,

New Marske.

Rape and pillage

Sir, - Here we go again. Same old story, different location.

I am talking about developers wanting to knock down or, to use their terms, redevelop a particular location in the Eaglescliffe/Yarm area.

I refer to Wimpey Homes' plans to demolish two fine and perfectly livable homes - the Rookery and Sunnymount in South View, Eaglescliffe (D&S, Jan 30).

Are these houses a danger to the public, have they been uninhabited for years, do gangs of hooligans plague the properties? No, none of this applies.

They are situated on a large plot of land, in a very desirable area, within walking distance of "Las Vegas" - what locals now call Yarm.

These developers realise that people usually from outside the area, are daft enough to pay inflated prices for a two-bedroomed flat.

People of Yarm and Eaglescliffe, and ultimately Stockton Borough Council should wake up to the rape and pillage by these property developers.

The parish council appears to be backing the residents on this occasion but on other occasions it has appeared to have been party to plans and other similar schemes being allowed through.

All the time it is the same type of property being built - two or three-storey flats or apartments for the moneyed brigade.

If there is vacant land, why can't these developers build low-cost housing or horms for the elderly or infirm?

The final decision lies with Stockton Borough Council. Let it have the sense and fortitude not to be influenced by pound signs.


Crayke Road,