Highways officers quizzed over “dreadful” roads in Hawes

By Betsy Everett

If North Yorkshire County Council’s highways department was a private contractor they would be out of work, Hawes and High Abbotside parish council heard this week.

“The roads get worse and nowt ever gets done. Why don’t they do something before the cycle race? Why do we have to wait for that?” a resident asked highways officers, Neil Linfoot and Deborah Flowers.

Councillor Jill McMullon, chair, said the roads, especially the main A684 through the town, were “dreadful” and visitors were complaining.“ Are you going to do anything about it?” she asked.

Mr Linfoot said that under the government’s safer road funding scheme, identifying the A684 as one of the 50 worst roads in the country, £1.5 million had been earmarked for improvements in Hawes alone. County council engineers would do extensive ground and drone surveys to identify the problems and suggest ways forward. By about June there would be a public exhibition and personal contact with all residents so that everyone would have chance to comment. The deadline for spending the money was March 2021, but other road funding was now “practically non-existent.”

“It seems a very short time between now and the consultation if the deadline is next March,” said Cllr Yvonne Peacock. Mr Linfoot said as long as the work was underway by then there should not be a problem. Any repairs necessary prior to the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race would be done.

Mr Linfoot said there was a “parish portal” on the county council’s website where problems could be reported and dealt with. Ms Flowers said people complained that nothing was done, but often assumed someone else had taken it up. Highways were responsive to complaints from the public. Upper Dales county councillor, Yvonne Peacock, said: “If anyone sees anything wrong, contact me and I’ll gladly take it up.”

Transparency – Journalist Andrew Fagg said councils should act “transparently” to build up trust with the people they represent and to encourage more devolved decision-making at local level. As it was, the parish council was in breach of the government’s 2015 Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities by not having published the minutes of the December meeting within the timescale laid down.

“If the code had been followed, the minutes should have been published in draft four weeks ago. But this council hasn’t published them at all. Local ratepayers like me don’t have a clue what is in the minutes that you are about to approve,” he said.

Mr Fagg also questioned why, despite a request in September, he had still not received a copy of the council’s standing orders, or governance documents, which the Local Government Association states should be readily available for inspection.

“Is it out of order for this council to continue meeting without having any standing orders, or will it keep making up the rules as it goes along?” he asked.

Council chair Jill McMullon said that with the approval of Richmondshire District Council, the standing orders were being updated and made fit for purpose. 

“We are not making up the rules as we go along, we are following their directions and instructions and they are happy with what we are doing. As for the minutes, for 20 years to my knowledge draft minutes have not been published so I don’t know why you are raising this now. Other parish councils do exactly the same,” she said.

Co-options – Three councillors had been co-opted, said Cllr McMullon – David Colley, Mike Watts, and Dave Stephenson – and all votes were taken “entirely of free will without intimidation or bias by any parish councillor or any member of the public.” Jake Dinsdale, who had reapplied having been rejected in the last round of co-options, failed in his second bid told members he had been happy with the process this time and glad all vacancies had been filled. A resident said she thought it was difficult for people to know how to make their voice heard as they did not know what was going to be on the parish council agenda. Cllr McMullon said it was published on the website and Mr Dinsdale suggested a FaceBook page for the parish council would help.

Memorial – The proposed siting of a stone memorial to the late John Blackie on the memorial green was proving divisive, said resident Bob Ellis. “I agree a lot of people are in favour, but John always acted for the community as a whole. It needs to go where everyone can say ‘Yes, it’s a good way of remembering John and what he did for the town.’ Please think about putting it somewhere that isn’t going to be divisive.” Richard Noble said he would do a scale drawing showing how it would look on the small green at Town Foot. Members agreed that the community would be asked for their preference.

Signs – Cllr Peacock said she had applied for £500 from the county council’s locality fund towards upgrading the signs for Hawes on the approach to the town.

1 Comment

  1. I know that John made an outstanding contribution to the community but do not believe the commemorative stone should be located with the War Memorial (WM). The WM should stand alone in remembrance of those that gave their all.
    The ideal location for John’s dedication would be just above the junction of the A684 and B6255, Looking down into Hawes.

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