Howard Croft column: Traffic streams as Mrs C heads for the river . . .

Anti-fracking campsite near Kirby Misperton.
Anti-fracking campsite near Kirby Misperton.

Reports last week of two local issues: traffic hazards in Haymarket Road, Malton and concerns about the increasing problem arising from the anti-fracking camp site near Kirby Misperton, also traffic related. The first seems to be a matter for North Yorkshire County Council, the second Ryedale District Council. Both seem to show a greater concern among what Councillor Lindsay Burr calls “the powers that be” for process than for outcome.

Speeding traffic in Haymarket Road is not a new problem, but it has been exacerbated by the knock-on effect of current closure of Yorkersgate. As Councillor Lindsay Burr pointed out, “The powers that be have been told many times about reckless driving on this stretch of road…before the current diversion which has exacerbated the issue as drivers accelerate to make up for lost time”. Nothing has been done.

Most shocking of all is the response that Angela Kirkham, director of the Kirkham Henry Performing Arts Centre, had from NYCC when protesting over the years. She has had repeated requests for 20mph signs denied by the council on the grounds that the performing arts centre is not a local authority school. This is extraordinary: is the council saying that it does not have a duty of care for children who are not educated in its own schools? Is this an ideological disapproval of private education? Would they apply this bizarre distinction to academy schools and public schools in North Yorkshire?

Indeed, there is a 20mph limit along Highfield Road in Old Malton where it passes two primary schools, the Community Primary (a NYCC school) and St Mary’s (a voluntary aided Roman Catholic establishment under the auspices of the Diocese of Middlesbrough). Did the pen pushers in County Hall, when assessing the need for road safety measures in the area, exclude from the infant footfall in Highfield Road those Catholic children? It would be scandalous if it were so, but in light of comments about the children at Kirkham Henry it would be a reasonable inference.

Luckily, Lindsay Burr, a bulldozer as you may know, has persuaded the county council to put up some temporary SLOW signs in the vicinity of Kirkham Henry. But, why temporary? This is a chronic problem and has been for some time.

There has been an increase in complaints about the anti-fracking camp near Kirby Misperton, mainly to do with increased traffic from visitors and obstruction from cars parking on verges and in the narrow lanes. According to the anti-fracking activists, police sources have confirmed that this is not illegal parking, but nevertheless good old Ryedale District Council has sprung into action and is “gathering information .. .if there was (sic) a decision to be made on the camp it would be made by the planning committee which would be at the earliest in March but probably later”. This statement was made in early February.

Why the delay, apart from process? This is not a trivial matter for residents and those whose business takes them through the area. I know that those opposed to fracking hold strong opinions on the matter, but their views should not overwhelm all other considerations and this problem is not a planning application to build a kitchen extension to a private house. How about an emergency planning committee meeting, with one agenda item only, and not a complicated one? It’s called getting things done.

Finally, great drama on the banks of the Derwent. Mrs Croft took Tessy for an afternoon walk, which took her through Lady Spring Wood where she paused to look closely at the dilapidation of the boardwalk. Tessy immediately became bored and leaped into the river for a swim. She is a water dog, webbed feet and so on, and a strong swimmer. Mrs Croft noticed that she was paddling like mad and looking wild-eyed and distressed – she was being restrained by something.

Quick as a flash, she removed her wellies (Hunters, of course), her hat and coat and, handing her mobile ’phone to a bystander, waded in. But she couldn’t wade – it was very deep at that point and she disappeared from view. She re-surfaced, no doubt looking distressed and wild-eyed herself and struck out with powerful strokes to save her dog, entangled with weed.

Tessy quickly made it to the bank, and luckily there were now two bystanders there to haul her out of the river. In the meantime, I was tucked up warm by the fire at home with a bag of boiled sweets and a good book. She was quite a sight when she walked in and rather waspish when I asked her what had happened, but after a hot bath she was on the ’phone telling tales of her derring-do. I was so proud – it was a Grace Darling I married!