Bid to unite Woodland – a village divided by quirk of history
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
AN UPPER Gaunless Valley community has taken a step forward towards ironing out a quirk of history that has left a village divided.
Geographically, Woodland appears to be a single, clearly-defined village but, politically, it is shared between two parish councils. The village hall, shop, playground and war memorial fall in the boundary of Woodland Parish Council, but the church, school and hotel are within the jurisdiction of Lynesack and Softley Parish Council.
This means that part of the village has to travel to neighbouring Copley to vote while all other residents vote at Woodland Village Hall.
Now Woodland Parish Council is carrying out a survey which could ultimately see the boundary realigned.
Parish council chairman Cliff Harding said: “About two thirds of Woodland is in Woodland Parish and about a third is in Lynesack and Softley Parish. We want to realign that boundary so everyone within the Woodland postal is in Woodland Parish.”
He described the boundary anomaly as a quirk of history that had been caused because the boundaries were drawn up before the village was fully developed. He added: “We do have someone from Lynesack and Softely who lives next door to her daughter who is in Woodland – it is a farm – the boundary goes through the farm yard, so it is really something that needs addressing.”
Another quirk is the village green, which is divided between the two parish councils. Fortunately the parish councils use the same grass-cutting contractor, but this has not always been the case and different parts of the green were cut separately in the past.
Previously Woodland parish councillors had hoped the two parish councils would merge to form a single council, but their counterparts from Lynesack and Softely, which takes in Butterknowle and Copley, were not keen.
Cllr Harding said: “So after that we that we approached Lynesack and they more or less agreed [to realigning the boundary] but they did ask that we would do a survey to see if people are agreed.”
About 53 homes are affected by the proposed boundary change. Cllr Harding said: “Up to now we have probably canvassed half of the properties and of those there has been only one who would like it to remain the same. The way the survey is at the moment it looks like the vast majority want to be in Woodland parish.
“We will put it back to Lynesack [parish council] and hopefully that will satisfy them. That being the case we have to put a case to Durham County Council.
If the survey is a success, and Lynesack and Copley Parish Council is in favour of the change, it could take between 12 months and two years for the changes to be made, Cllr Harding said.
He said while there would be little financial impact on residents because the precept paid to both parish councils is similar, it would have a small financial impact on Lynesack and Softley Parish Council which would lose some of its tax base, but this would be offset by not having to pay for services currently provided in Woodland. These include cutting part of Woodland’s green.
However, Woodland Parish Council's coffers would enjoy a significant boost.
Mr Harding said: “It is a big difference to us. It would make Woodland – which is one of the smallest, if not the smallest, parish in the county – more viable.”