From: Coun Paul Andrews (Independent), Malton Ward, Great Habton, York.
It is possible to save the High Street. Fifteen years ago Malton was considered finished, as its town centre shops lost out to competition from the York shopping malls. A few local councillors and businesses got together informally to do something about this.
Our first efforts were not successful, but the town did have the advantage of having a single landlord for most of our small independent shops: the Fitzwilliam Estate.
Council-owned car parking charges, which rose well above the rate of inflation, were also forcing shops out of business.
The turning point came when the Market Place carpark lease came up for renewal in 2009. The estate was persuaded to take back the car park and make it free – which it did at considerable cost.
Then the District Council decided to sell another car park to a superstore. This would have delivered a huge capital receipt, but have ruined local shops. Fortunately the Estate had the resources to successfully challenge these at a public enquiry and in the High Court.
So the Malton Town Centre survives and the Estate has been encouraged to invest in it more than ever before. Now Malton is bucking the trend: our town centre thrives while others are in difficulty.
The lessons for other towns are clear: get a campaign group together, use political pressure to stop or reverse increases in car park fees, and raise funds (try crowdfunding) to challenge superstore planning applications.
If you are a customer, you will find our local shops are no more expensive (and often cheaper) than supermarkets and have greater variety.
If you want to give your children the opportunity to set up in business, use the local independent shops: if the superstores are allowed to drive everybody else out of business, your children will have no chance.
Rail attitude shift needed
From: ME Wright, Harrogate.
Thankfully, I’ve never had to call the fire brigade. Is it fair that I should be required to keep paying more to maintain it? Certainly not, according to the logic of some no-name from Network Rail, claiming that “It is not fair to ask people who do not use trains to pay more for those who do” (The Yorkshire Post, January 2).
Yet another supposed ‘public servant’ whose mind cannot cope with anything more imaginative than doing sums.
If ‘this’ doesn’t equal ‘that’ – stick the price up; problem solved.
Your columnist GP Taylor is the latest of many calling for a return to public ownership. But what about all the invisible Graylingesque suits, pulling the strings? How is the Westminster mindset to be changed?
I was involved daily in the chaos and confusion which followed privatisation. It also produced the ticket price minefield which is with us to this day. A year later, the result of the supposed inquiry by the curiously-named ‘Rail Delivery Group’ awaits delivery – hence GP Taylor’s outrageous £313 quotation for a return ticket to London.
We certainly need visceral change in Westminster attitudes as well as Franchisee practices. Deutsche Bahn own, but don’t actually operate, many of our lines. They also know how to run an effective and affordable network. It seems to be beyond us, so why not appoint them to run ours?
From: Jenny Eaves, Balby, Doncaster.
The rise in rail fares (The Yorkshire Post, January 2) is an annual event but one which becomes more to difficult to swallow with each passing year.
To increase ticket prices by an average 3.1 per cent this month after the woeful service that was provided to passengers in Yorkshire throughout most of 2018 is a real slap in the face.
It seems that rail operators receive all the advantages in having their margins protected but cannot be held to account by their customers in a way that ordinary businesses that weren’t delivering adequate services would be ordinarily.
Transport bosses say the extra money will improve services – but they claim that every year and nothing seems to change for the better.
Priorities are lost in space
From: Peter Hyde, Driffield.
Sadly I am at a complete loss as to what benefit it is to mankind for NASA to fly a probe past a mass of ice and dust four billion miles away in space.
It will have cost billions of dollars and many hours of research.
Surely there are projects here on earth or near space that would be of far more use to the human race?
One never ceases to be amazed at what scientists can waste money on.
Soap life is just the job
From: Coun Tim Mickleburgh (Lab), Boulevard Avenue, Grimsby.
I ENJOY watching Emmerdale with my mum. But I’m amused as to how many people in a small village find work easily, often being offered employment by someone they know. I wish that kind of thing had happened to me over the years!
From: Dr John Rayner, Hull.
Might Yorkshire veg grower Guy Poskitt be Britain’s post-Brexit agricultural saviour? Your Boxing Day front page headline suggests farmers “may need radical food solutions after Brexit.” Carrot soup?