‘Crazy decision to install lifts at Northallerton station’

Last Monday morning there was an inevitable malfunction with the lift to platform one; wheelchairs and baby pushchairs were left struggling with the steps, which replaced the perfectly functional ramps to the platforms which were previously in place.

We were told that Thirsk station, which so badly needs lifts for access to both the north and southbound platforms, does not have sufficient passengers to warrant their installation.

Could this be a case of chicken and egg?

Presently wheelchair and pushchairs avoid Thirsk station as they have to rely on station staff to escort them across the tracks to the platforms.

Maintaining a staff presence at Thirsk is of course a perfectly legitimate concern.

However, should this have been a factor in deciding to place the lifts at Northallerton rather than Thirsk, where they are so badly needed, those responsible should not hide behind the justification of passenger numbers for their crazy decision to install the lifts at Northallerton, rather than Thirsk.

Peter Scrope, Great Ayton.

BID costs query

THE annual general meeting of the Northallerton BID (Business Improvement District) was the latest perplexing experience of several small businesses in the town as to how exactly we benefit from our annual levy to this company.

Of the 12 directors only four were present, the short presentation being undertaken (professionally it has to be said) by a lone director.

The date of the AGM was fixed several weeks ago so it was surprising to hear of apologies for absence from the majority of the committee.

Over the last 12 years I have been fortunate to have been able to expand my businesses here in Northallerton, including hosting regular large collectors fairs in the Golden Lion Hotel.

Our record fairs and more recent Vintage Sunday events regularly attract hundreds of dealers and visitors to the town, contributing to the local economy on every visit.

We have tried unsuccessfully to engage with the current and previous BID manager to assist with promotion of these events but their contribution seems to amount to nothing more than the forwarding of our social media posts to those members on their distribution lists.

Last year’s introduction of a physical, colourful what’s on guide circulated by the BID seemed a good idea. A good idea only for those events organised by the BID – no mention of any independent events for the whole 12 month period. Apparently over 7,000 copies were circulated.

What a missed opportunity by the BID to show support for small businesses like ours and to exemplify one of their stated aims to, “partner with current event organisers to help raise their appeal or quality to provide a year round programme of events”.

Notwithstanding these issues, I have congratulated members of the BID on their management of certain events this year on the High Street and I commend them on their communication with businesses during the pandemic. I acknowledge the importance of their jobs fairs and first aid training.

I speak on behalf of several small independent businesses, particularly on the southern end of the High Street, that the BID simply does not appear to value our efforts to sustain the shopping experience for visitors and our attempts to expand for the benefit of the whole town.

No progress has been made on their stated aim of improving the negative impact of the growing number of empty shops. The BID has no policy of introducing itself to new and start-up businesses.

Perhaps the BID acronym could be reconsidered because from this business owner’s perspective there is very little “improvement” to be seen and little value for our levy money.

Gary Lewis, Betterdaze Record Shop, Northallerton.

In response

NORTHALLERTON Business Improvement District are extremely proud to represent more than 200 businesses of all sizes in central Northallerton and make great efforts to champion our wonderful independents who make the town such a special place to visit.

Over the years, we have enthusiastically promoted Mr Lewis’s businesses in Zetland Street to our many thousands of followers on the Love Northallerton marketing channels and genuinely celebrate their success.

The BID was re-elected by a huge 73 per cent majority of its members in November 2020, an overwhelming vote of confidence in the services we provide.

We are passionately committed to making Northallerton an ideal location to live, shop and work and helping businesses prosper.

Services they value include funding CCTV cameras to help keep streets safe, arranging regular recruitment fairs to fill vacancies and offering free weekly cardboard collections that save dozens of them thousands of pounds a year.

One of our biggest recent successes has been introducing regular coach visits and installing a team of town ambassadors to give out vouchers to spend in local shops.

During the last 18 months, we have welcomed more than 4,500 visitors on 150 coaches, boosting the local economy by an estimated £50,000 and bringing welcome new customers to smaller businesses.

Our regular programme of big High Street events such as Jurassic Northallerton bring many thousands of visitors to the town and smaller promotions such as Dog Dayz reinforce the message that we are a friendly and attractive place to visit.

As Mr Lewis suggests, we were hugely pro-active in helping businesses during the pandemic, with more than 1,300 direct engagements and hands-on help with accountancy and lease advice to enable many smaller businesses to continue trading.

As then and always, we celebrate every new opening within the BID area and are in regular contact with key agencies to explore ways to fill empty properties.

The BID’s small, committed operating team is backed up by our board of directors, who contribute their services on a voluntary basis and represent a broad cross-section of Northallerton business interests. We are very grateful for their efforts.

We would be very willing to meet Mr Lewis at the earliest opportunity to discuss his concerns and, as we stated at our recent AGM, we welcome the opportunity to answer questions about any aspect of our operations.

We are sorry if this year’s What’s On Guide failed to mention any significant dates in the town and would love to hear of anything he feels should be included in our 2024 version we are currently preparing.

Spokesperson for Northallerton Business Improvement District.

PM’s statements

WHEN Rishi Sunak took office he promised to lead with honesty and integrity.

Despite this there is now undeniable evidence that the PM is promulgating two false statements about immigration.

In his speech to the Conservative party conference he misled delegates (and the nation) about Labour’s immigration plans, according to Full Fact, which monitors the factual accuracy of statements made in public debate.

This is unacceptable and damaging to democracy; it also nullifies his claim to be a champion of honesty.

On a previous occasion, the PM used incorrect figures when comparing the asylum backlog under Conservative and Labour administrations.

As a constituent I want to see my MP acting with integrity, and in his role of PM I expect to see Mr Sunak leading by example when it comes to honesty. Sadly, he is not.

Gus Pennington, Stokesley.

Immigrant ages

THE government plans to age verify asylum seekers with MRI scans. This is unnecessarily expensive.

Many MRI scanners in our NHS are owned by PFI companies.

The Tories will simply be lining the pockets of these PFI company shareholders with tax payers’ money as we pay per scan.

The move is impractical anyway as the person being scanned is required to lie completely still.

Why would people being scanned co operate?

Instead employ young people – preferably students – to give an initial opinion. Young people know who is younger than them and who isn’t.

I can remember being able to tell when I was their age, who was older and younger than me. I still had the talent as late as 40 years old.

Nigel Boddy, Darlington.

Peace demand

RECENT news has been full of Israel’s devastating assault on the mainly civilian population of Gaza.

A wide variety of sources suggest Israel has bombed hospitals, at least 70 schools, mosques and churches.

This follows a pattern of state action with Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen, the Turkish war against the Kurds and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A UN expert warns Palestinians are in grave danger of mass ethnic cleansing and calls on world leaders to press for an immediate ceasefire.

International pressure seems to have forced Israel to allow aid to flow but rockets continue to rain on Gaza’s streets.

Despite the brutality of the Hamas attack on Israel and the complex hostage situation, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer’s policy to ”stand with Israel” is rapidly losing support and credibility from all sides.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman describes the siege of Gaza as “legitimate Israeli defensive measures” but Tory MP Crispin Blunt says of Britain’s support for Israel’s Gaza policy: “The fact of you being complicit makes you equally guilty to the party carrying out the crime.”

The siege must be ended entirely.

A recent UK opinion poll reveals 78 per cent support for an immediate ceasefire. Only one per cent of Labour voters opposed this (YouGov).

The global majority support the demands for peace and justice for Palestine.

C Walker, Darlington.

Parental responsibility

AFTER watching the news about child attendance at schools and colleges where truancy is sometimes as much as 25 per cent, can someone answer my question “Where the hell are the parents to make sure this cannot happen?”

The children’s future lays with the parents not the school – it is their responsibility and no one else’s.

T J Ryder, York.

Darlington and Stockton Times | Business News