‘Don’t make pariahs out of second home owners’, says councillor

Hawes sorting office.

By Betsy Everett

Listen to the meeting in full here:

Proposals to increase council tax on second homes by up to 500 per cent risked making “pariahs” of home-owners who support the local economy, a council has heard.

John Blackie, chairman of Hawes and High Abbotside parish council, told its February meeting that if the plan went ahead it would cause “collateral socio-economic damage” in the Dales, and said there were many other ways of addressing the problem of a shortage of affordable homes.
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The proposal also posed a threat to a large number of small firms and tradespeople. One, in Swaledale, had said second homes represented 90 per cent of his workload and if they were not there he would have to leave the Dales.  A decision to oppose the motion when it came before Richmondshire District Council was passed unanimously. Read more on the story

Mr Blackie reported that there was a proposal to close the sorting office in Hawes, after at least 70 years in the town, and move the operation to Leyburn. The service was financed by a privatised Royal Mail but operated through the Post Office who would make the final decision, said Mr Blackie.

However, it was  not a “done deal” and the views of the community were being sought. He said local people had always filled the roles, and if the service moved to Leyburn the chances were the jobs would go there, too, resulting in a loss of local knowledge and customer service.

He suggested there was a “hidden agenda” around the concept of the Royal Mail’s universal service guarantee which had only five more years to run.

“If you wanted to stop that service eventually, then what more likely place to start than a deeply rural area like the Upper Dales?” he asked.

Meanwhile the two well-paid, secure jobs would almost certainly be taken by people who were not familiar with the “roads, tracks and ins and outs of the upper dales. In due course the service will deteriorate,” he said.

Although parcels and signed-for items could be left at the post office in the community office on weekdays, if people were not in to receive them, it was closed on Saturday afternoons. There were 58 businesses working from Hawes who relied entirely on the post and for them the system would not work, he said.

Resident Stan Roocroft queried how many properties in Hawes and High Abbotside were named and not numbered, and Councillor Abbie Rhodes asked how many were called South View. She expressed concern that vital local knowledge could be lost if the sorting office closed. Members agreed to continue strong opposition to the proposed closure and to contact Rishi Sunak MP about what Mr Blackie described as “this burning local issue.”

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Members agreed to report the North of England Civic Trust, owners of the restored 18th century Gayle Mill, to the Charity Commission when they heard from chair of the Gayle Mill Trust, William Lambert, that they had been given only two weeks’ notice to quite the building.

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The regular police report which had been an item on the council’s agenda for some years, was removed at the last meeting when Mr Blackie said Hawes seemed to be “almost off the police map” and despite several break-ins one night there had been no evident police activity.

However, said Mr Blackie, welcoming PC Julian Sutcliffe to the meeting  “no sooner do we take the police off the agenda than a policeman turns up to address us.”

PC Sutcliffe said that of 15 burglaries in the area in the last year, ten had taken place on one night in October. Garden sheds had been broken into and many items stolen. He warned about door-to-door sellers and urged people to dial 101 if they were suspicious.

“We may not turn up instantly, but it’s important we know so we can find out which way they are heading, and track them down,” he said. PC Sutcliffe said “undoubtedly” cannabis, cocaine and other class A drugs were a problem in the area. They were brought in by professional dealers but a lack of information passed to police made it difficult to measure the problem.

“I’m not saying Hawes and the upper dales has a big drugs problem but based on what we know about the lower dales area I am quite sure it is a hidden problem,” he said.

He encouraged people to sign up for the“community messaging” service which allowed police to alert individuals and organisations to suspicious activity in a specific area. It took just two minutes to sign up at www.NYCM.co.uk.

A £10,00 repair programme for the town’s play park at Town Foot would be part-financed by a £1,250 award from North Yorkshire County Councils upper dales locality budget and £3,750 from the parish council. Further sources of finance would be explored including the national lottery Awards for All. For more details on this story click here.

David Khan, new owner of the Bainbridge Ings caravan site in Old Gayle Lane, had applied for planning permission for eight camping pods on the site and an extension of the hardstanding for all-year motor homes and touring caravans. He believed his proposed development would benefit the town, as his businesses elsewhere had done, bringing 100-plus more people to the national park each winter and creating 120 tourist beds. Touring vans, motor homes and campers would come to the site and spend locally. “I am not planning on serving any kind of food or having a shop on the site, but instead people will go into the town and shop locally,” Mr Khan told members. He had a “strong business ethos” of supporting the communities he worked in and would be advertising for permanent, well-paid staff.

Mr Blackie said the parish council’s original objection remained but members would consider his application once Mr Khan had submitted amended plans showing the full extent of the development. “Put down on paper exactly how those four fields are going to be allocated and we will reconsider our position. We do need to hang on to our camping,” he told Mr Khan.

Resident Richard Noble’s request for £1,000 towards installation and maintenance costs of floral displays in the town during the summer was unanimously approved. Mr Noble stressed that businesses paid for their own baskets but for displays on church and school railings and public places, watering and transport costs, a contribution would be welcome. Members thanked Mr Noble and his team for making “a wonderful job” each year of the floral displays which were of great benefit to the town.

Members set the parish precept for the financial year 2018/19 at £15,700.