A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers
I can’t say I was surprised that some readers reacted with alarm to recent stories in this newspaper about local authorities advising the public that giving cash to street beggars in Harrogate isn’t a good idea.
Until I saw what was actually happening with my own eyes on Oxford Street, I thought exactly the same as everyone else.
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So I wasn’t surprised that for passing on this information from the local experts who know what they are talking I got ‘trolled’ on social media.
People are naturally reluctant to say anything that appears to lack sympathy for people begging on the streets.
But it must say something that respected businesses, the police, the council and charities in Harrogate are all now willing to raise their concerns in public.
As a journalist, being open to criticism comes with the territory.
But I have to admit I was a bit surprised by the vociferous nature of the flak coming my way.
I realise challenging anyone’s beliefs on anything these days is almost to ask for trouble.
But trolls always seem determined to get their man irrespective of any real knowledge.
In the heated atmosphere of the social media, facts ends up as collateral damage.
Still, I’m really not complaining.
To walk into a debate in the digital world then bleat about it afterwards is akin to stepping into a boxing ring and complaining when the first punch lands.
The English are known world-wide for their love of gardens and anything that smacks of the countryside
This district, in particular, can credit a large part of its attractiveness to its green and leafy nature. But is that beginning to change?
More and more people seem to be acquiring a taste for hacking down hedges and cutting down trees.
And I don’t just mean local councils in far-flung parts of Yorkshire like Sheffield.
Or private developers closer to home in Harrogate and Knaresborough and Ripon who sometimes clear away the foliage as part of the wave of new housing.
No, I mean ordinary people on ordinary streets.
I know trees in urban areas can cause some problems which might outweigh their looks and environmentally beneficial properties.
Trees that are too close to your house can cause damage to your siding, windows, roof, and gutter.
There’s also the fear that tree roots will damage the foundations, though I’m told this is a bit of an urban myth.
But I’ve seen for myself bushes pulled up by the root in Harrogate to create a little bit more light in someone’s kitchen, trees torn to their stumps to create an extra space to park a car.
This rush to create a concrete jungle completely baffles me - and I say this as someone who hails originally from an industrial town.