Charity Commission a “toothless tiger” over Gayle Mill complaint says councillor

Gayle Mill. Photo: John Illingworth.

By Betsy Everett

At a meeting of Hawes and High Abbotside parish council, the Charity Commission was described as a “toothless tiger” for refusing to deal with a complaint against the owners of Gayle Mill which had been forced to close in March.

The council had reported the North of England Civic Trust to the Commission who had replied that trustees alone were responsible for the conduct of a charity. The Commission was “precluded . . . from involvement” unless there had been a breach of charity law. The council’s complaint would, however, be kept on record.

Clerk to the council Fran Cartwright said that Graham Bell of the NECT which owned the mill, had opened an email inviting him to attend the meeting within a minute of receiving it at 9.50 one night. However, he had not responded and was not present at the meeting.
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William Lambert of the Gayle Mill Trust said a group of visitors had come from New Zealand to visit the mill and were disappointed to see it had closed. The building had been boarded up and locks changed but the Trust had heard nothing from NECT. Cllr Blackie said they would continue to invite Graham Bell to attend and make it a standing item on the council’s agenda.

Police. – Police presence was doubled with the presence at the meeting of Sgt Sharon Findlay of Leyburn and community support officer Lucy Osborn following the removal of policing as a standing item on the agenda. Sgt Findlay said they were keen to increase police presence in Hawes and they could be contacted by dialling 101, choosing option 2, and speaking the officer’s name. There had been a problem with doorstep sellers but successful prosecutions had been mounted. “No cold callers” stickers were available in the community office and the doctors’ surgery.

Haylands Bridge. – Stuart McCloughlin, owner of the land at Haylands Bridge where the bank had collapsed causing severe flooding, had sent the parish council an invoice for £626.60, representing half the cost of repairs and threatening court action if the council refused to pay. Cllr Blackie said the council had no responsibility to repair damage to private land and would not pay. “Our position will be robustly defended,” he said.

Dale Head garage. – From 14 May there would be a 24-7 facility to withdraw fuel on a credit or debit card at Dale Head Garage. It would become self-service, said Cllr Blackie, with a console as in a supermarket garage.  Many people had welcomed the availability of fuel at very little more than Tesco prices, and the Wensleydale Creamery and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority had been very supportive. Cllr Blackie asked customers to be aware the garage was surrounded by houses whose residents “deserve a good night’s sleep. If you go early morning, late at night, or in the middle of the night please respect the neighbours,” he said. There would be low level lighting and CCTV cameras. In the past month the garage had sold 110,000 litres of fuel and it had been “a real community success story,” featured in a 10-page article in the Reader’s Digest.

Playground painting. – Volunteers were needed to paint items of apparatus in the main playground at the entrance to the town. The council would supply the paint and all equipment, including sandpaper, brushes and brightly coloured paint. An item could adopted in the Town Foot park, such as the roundabout or swings, and the task could be tackled A report from volunteer Robin Peters showed the surface of the junior slide was in a “very poor” condition and that it would need repairing or replacing at a cost of around £3,000 plus VAT. Some of the swings were also reported to be in a poor condition, as was the surface of the see-saw. Repairs would cost thousands of pounds. At the February meeting it was reported that a grant of £1,250 from North Yorkshire County Council’s upper dales locality fund had been awarded for playground refurbishment and further funding would be sought from the Sedbusk Poors Charity.

Invite declined. – An invitation to Yvonne Peacock, leader of Richmondshire District Council, and Tony Clark, its chief executive, to attend the meeting and explain cutbacks to services in the town, had been declined. Cllr Blackie said they should be “held to account” but in a letter to the council Mr Clark said Cllr Blackie’s concerns and criticisms had been raised many times with the district council and detailed responses given. Mrs Ruth Annison said any criticism of the district council should be kept “personality free.”

Gala. – A grant of £500 to the newly revived Hawes gala committee was approved by the council.