I recently attended a meeting of the Craven Branch of the National Farmers Union (NFU). In times gone by your readers may have thought that this was the action of Daniel entering the lion's den!

Happily things have changed, and today I sense that there is a greater understanding between this National Park Authority and the farming community of the Dales. That said, there will always be debates and at times disagreements, it would be wrong if there wasn't.

The meeting itself was very useful on a number of fronts. For me, the most overwhelming sentiment to come from the meeting was the gratitude of the area's farmers to the wider public for their support over the last year.

Both the NFU and this authority would like to pass on our whole-hearted thanks to the public who respected the closed footpaths and bridleways of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which today, thankfully, are once again 100 per cent open.

The other reason that the meeting was useful was that it gave me the chance to explain our current position on agriculture in the Dales and to sound out those at the sharp end. It is no secret that we want to see a shift away from national agricultural subsidies that subsidise over-production to those that reward farmers in the uplands for the role they play in conserving and enhancing this great landscape that so many come to enjoy.

This is no pipe dream. One only has to examine the latest Government thinking on the subsidy question to see on the horizon a very real opportunity to turn around farming in the uplands and see a new dawn where Dales farmers get realistic payments for what the public wants - a productive, protected and enhanced landscape.

That said, I left the meeting in no doubt of the many hardships that continue to face Dales farmers. Yet I was pleased at the common ground that does exist between us through our shared desire to see agriculture back on a better footing, for the benefit of both farmers and the landscape of this National Park. - David Butterworth, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.


HOW can this Government continue to give millions in Third World aid at the expense of our people? This money, scandalously, is equivalent to about £170 per family each year.

Let's sort out Great Britain's problems first. I say Great, but our social problems are piling up faster than anyone's.

Tony Blair won't stop any of this waste of our money. We'd be better off under the Tories even. - Aled Jones, Bridlington.


AS a regular user of Yarm Road, it seems now that the new road into Ingleby Barwick is open that this bus lane is no longer needed; late afternoon traffic hold-ups are few and far between.

As identified by the police, the problem now is improper use of the centre lane, especially by large vehicles, and I fail to see how traffic signals at Butts Lane will change this.

The police could take some time off from catching those who exceed the speed limit and educate motorists in the correct use of this road. - Peter W Elliott, Eaglescliffe.


ONCE again, we have Pete Winstanley piling blame on the West (HAS, June I). This time we are being blamed for Islamic fundamentalism.

The Holy Koran has verses telling Muslims to fight holy war until the world becomes Islamic and this is the root cause of Islamic fundamentalism.

To blame the West is a most disgraceful act of treachery and Mr Winstanley and co should hang their heads in shame. - Gerald Leadbetter, Ferryhill.


WHAT a farce. I can't work out what is the most deceitful way of conning the public; letting a police officer off with a speeding ticket (Cleveland Police) or fining a police force (Hampshire police) for not knowing who was driving at the time of the offence.

It makes no difference how much the fine was, £5 or £5,000, it still comes out of the people who pay the council tax. Another case of different laws for different people.

Isn't it time they put trip switches connecting the speed camera to a one further down the road so a driver is filmed from the front and not just his rear number plate?

There must be thousands of drivers who have paid up but have been innocent because they couldn't prove who was driving at any particular time.

The police have had long enough to get it right, so unless a driver can be identified, he's innocent until proven guilty.

If every driver who was caught opted to go to court then asked for trial by jury, like the thief who stole the tin of spaghetti, then the police would soon get their act together. - A McKimm, Crook.


THERE must be something drastically wrong at the £97m 640-bed new University Hospital, North Durham, when 92-year-old Winifred Leonard of Crook (Echo, May 28) was left on a trolley in a side room for over ten hours with a suspected broken leg.

No wonder her relations branded her treatment as a disgrace.

This particular case has cast a cloud over the Government's facilities and should be investigated as soon as possible.

Dedicated as all hospital staff are, it's still a sad state of affairs when a frail old lady is left waiting for over ten hours before being admitted to a ward.

In today's society the old saying, respect for your elders, seems to have gone out of fashion. - Jack Amos, Willington.