PARKING METERS: HAVING parked in the disabled bay in the car park next to the Belvedere Club, Bishop Auckland, and displayed my disabled tickets, I returned after a while to find a ticket on the car demanding a £30 fine.

The only sign which could be seen was a small one displayed saying 50p to park.

No wonder people don't visit Bishop Auckland, every parking place has been taken over by parking meters.

Now I go to Aycliffe, which is very good for parking without any meters. From now on I will make Aycliffe my shopping place. - J Race, Bishop Auckland.


WHERE has the policy of listening to the people who elect local government gone?

Witton Gilbert villagers asked for village green status to be applied to a small piece of land with a seat, trees and flower beds where lots of people stop and enjoy a rest.

The local politicians (Liberal Democrats) have erected a fence all around the said piece of land with no gate for entry, thus stopping everyone from enjoying one of the few facilities available in Witton Gilbert.

Far from being liberal, this party borders on dictatorship. - Name and address supplied.


JUST as the last long-serving prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, will always be remembered in history for failures such as the poll tax riots, miners' strike hardship, mass unemployment and economic/business collapses, then so will the latest long-serving prime minister Tony Blair.

Blair's remarkable record of failure includes the disastrous Iraq war, loss of control of immigration policy, the overwhelming defeat of his regional assembly programme, failing to ensure Britain's internal security against home grown fundamentalist terrorists, etc.

The one major difference between the two is that Thatcher walked away from parliament with the legacy that she had at least achieved two great feats - one in being the first woman prime minister, and the second being victory in the Falklands War.

I cannot think of any great achievement which Tony can be proud of when Gordon finally pushes him out of the Number 10 door. - Mark Anderson, Middleton St George.


CUSTOMERS at the Dolphin Leisure Centre, Darlington, are anxious about forthcoming improvements. They foresee the council spending a fortune, but ending up with fewer visitors there.

Customers have already been lost following restrictions on the diving boards. They are only open when convenient for staff.

During the closure, gym customers will switch to independent sector facilities. They will discover saunas, steam rooms and more convenient opening hours. Those customers will not return to the centre despite a new gym while there are no plans to reopen the sauna suite. The suite closed four years ago when Darlington became the largest local authority in northern England without a municipal sauna. Customers criticise three policy decisions in 1996: the loss of the rest room - replaced by toning tables- compulsory membership including passport photos preventing spontaneous visits by new customers and a ban on nudity during single sex sessions.

While council officials refer to vandalism, customers diagnose a lack of routine maintenance. In the upstairs changing rooms several lockers are out of order. Gym customers do not vandalise lockers.

Swimmers want existing changing rooms retained but upgraded with additional shower facilities. Council officials prefer a changing village, the concept notorious for noise caused by youngsters slamming doors, banging on partitions and swearing at each other. Female customers worry about peeping toms on all sides. Many adults do not use swimming pools where they cannot have a proper shower.

In traditional changing rooms youngsters are more likely to make routine visits to the toilets and showers. - Name and address supplied.


RE the letter concerning Harry Farr (HAS, Nov 8) who was one of the too many 'shot at dawn' mistakes of the First World War, whose family campaign for a pardon is more than fully justified.

We should not forget in our region the case for Sgt JW Stones and Corporals Goggins and Mcdonald of the 19 DLI. That regiment was part of the 35th (Bantam) Division and, from the actions in the face of the enemy on November 26, 1916, some 26 members of the regiment were sentenced to death but only the three NCOs named above were executed.

The Bantams are a proud part of the DLI and our county mining history but were the subject of denigration by the generals of the First World War.

I was very privileged last year to visit the graves of Stones, Goggins and McDonald in St Pol in France and to pay my respects to their sacrifice and memory.

I am not surprised that Secretary of State John Reid argued in the High Court during the Harry Farr challenge that he needed more time to study the evidence. After all, it is only 90 years since it happened.

I am proud that the name of Sergeant JW Stones is now on the war memorial in Crook Market Place - his place is fully deserved.

I met John Reid within 50 yards of that memorial just two years ago. Is 50 yards or 90 years too far to accord to the families of those volunteers a pardon for the crass decisions of the 'butcher' Haig regime during the unacceptable nonsense of the First World War? - David Armstrong, Barnard Castle.


YOU did us all a great service with your excellent item (Echo, Oct 28), 'How much does your local MP cost the public purse?'.

With the growing controversy about Darlington's town centre, highlighted the same day, I think you would do us all an even greater service if you followed that up with an item on how much does your Darlington councillor cost the public purse? - Clive Owen, Middleton St George.


IN all the publicity surrounding the Conservative Party leadership campaign I have barely heard mention of the EU.

It appears to me that there must have been some sort of embargo on this very contentious subject and if this is so then I am greatly concerned since our country's relationship with the EU is the most important and critical matter ever to face us.

Perhaps your correspondents, Peter Atkinson MP and Martin Callanan MEP (Echo, Nov 2) would tell your readers what EU policy they would expect from their candidate David Cameron if he were to be elected leader of the Conservative Party. - Roland B Wade, Harrogate.


RIGHT TO PROTEST: I FELT I must write to show my support for the words of Ada Burns, the chief Executive of Darlington Borough Council (HAS Nov 5).

It is totally unacceptable that anyone should have to endure bullying, intimidation or abuse (accusations aimed at the campaigners trying to save Hurworth school).

Could she please then explain why teachers and staff at both Hurworth and Eastbourne schools are not allowed to voice on opinion on the future of the schools and their own futures?

If no pressure is being brought to bear, then why aren't Labour councillors allowed a free vote on this issue and allowed to speak freely. Lastly, why it is necessary to call the police to mainly parents and children who are exercising their democratic right to protest in a peaceful law-abiding manner. - T Stubbs, Hurworth.


IT is disappointing to hear that the Education Village has been delayed again until April because of vandalism.

As a parent of a child at Springfield Primary School, I have been looking forward to my child going to the Education Village and one of the reasons why I chose Springfield Primary was because I knew my child was going to benefit from being educated there.

It is more disturbing however to hear that a group of parents are objecting to the Education Village with a petition. This group must be a select band of people because I was never approached to sign their petition and neither was anyone else I know.

As a supporter of the Education Village, I am very annoyed that these people submitted a petition that is not supported by all parents. I would suggest that the petition organisers have a hidden agenda and I do not want to be associated with their views.

Springfield is a wonderful school. It is getting very good results and I am delighted with the standard of education that my child is getting. I can only see the Education Village making standards better and I look forward to April when it opens - V George, Darlington.

BULLY TACTICS RE the Ada Burns letter. It seems ironic she used the term bully to describe the behaviour of a number of campaigners at a recent rally staged outside Darlington Town Hall.

Recently, Darlington Borough Council has given the green light to many controversial projects within Darlington with little or no consultation with the residents of this once great town, surely this is closer therefore to the definition of bully.

Incidentally, my wife was present throughout the entire rally and witnessed an entirely peaceful demonstration. I suggest that Ada Burns should provide some evidence of the alleged behaviour. Perhaps she could contact the police, who should be able to confirm or, more likely, deny her allegations.

Another comment made by Ada Burns referred to the publishing of personal attacks on websites. As registrant and administrator of the www.SaveTheWhite site, I can confirm that I have received no complaints from any member of the public or indeed anyone at Darlington Borough Council.

Darlington Borough Council have been accused by many lately of denying the people of Darlington their democratic right to have an opinion and indeed voice their concerns in a public arena. I think Ada's letter simply serves to prove that this is the case. - Mike Cartwright, www.SaveTheWhiteHorse. org


I REALLY must take exception to the misrepresentation by Councillor John Williams (HAS, Nov 7) of David Cameron's views on the proposed replacement school for Darlington.

As (for the time being) the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, David is perfectly well aware of what an academy is and how it operates. His point is that the decision to close the existing schools and hand the children in them over to a new, market place alternative is very much the decision of Mr Williams and his pals.

Even the Prime Minister refuses to intervene, despite the fact that Hurworth school is in his own constituency.

No, Councillor Williams must take the responsibility for the loss of two LEA schools, and he must take the resentment of angry parents, too.

That is the opinion of most people in Darlington. It is also the opinion of David Cameron. I suggest local Labour politicians take note of what David Cameron says; a growing number of people now believe that David will be Prime Minister in about four years time. - Ian Galletley, Conservative Party area chairman


I READ (HAS, Nov 5) on the school debate with a little disbelief and, after recoiling from the cheek of two of the three letters, felt I had to put pen to paper. Firstly, Mrs Burns' accusations of our use of bully tactics - we at Share (Save Hurworth and Rural Education) are peaceful demonstrators.

The Teesside Airport demonstration resulted in children crying. If that's not intimidation and bully tactics, I don't know what is.

They are constantly using the threat of the police as if they are their own personal army to stop our right to a peacefully demonstrate.

Secondly, the cheek of the letter from Mrs Copeland. Surely the veracity of her letter proves she is not an unbiased Governor and should never have been elected.

Ian White, Hurworth.