Friday, 27 November 2015

When is a town not a town?

I live a few miles away from a rapidly growing settlement called Brough. I see it mentioned from time to time as a town in the local press, but I've always thought of it as a large village. It has been a settlement for a long time, it was a town, Peturia, when Rome ruled this area.

The idea of not knowing whether a place in England is a town or a village seems easy to resolve: does it have a town council or a parish council? Well in the case of Brough it is not quite so easy. The local council is a town council, but it covers both Elloughton and Brough and is called Elloughton-cum-Brough Town Council. It is not that uncommon to find a civil parish or town council with multiple settlements within its bounds, but the council is a town council, surely one of the settlements needs to be a town.

It is clear to me there are two settlements here. Road signs show both places sometimes in different directions, OS Locator shows the street names as streetname : Brough : Elloughton-cum-Brough and streetname : Elloughton : Elloughton-cum-Brough.

OS Open Names shows both places as populatedPlace: village. So is it possible to have a town council presiding over an area with two villages and no towns in it?

I've asked the Local Authority, who, after all, provide the data for OS Locator and OS Open Names, what they think.

The answer is a political hot potato at the moment, as Elloughton-cum-Brough town council have recently decided to spend £4000 on a mayoral-style chain for the head of the council. It seems he can legitimately call himself mayor after the town council made the appropriate change in 2011. That's a lot of money to spend on what some call trinkets at a time when there are council cuts elsewhere.

The clerk to the Elloughton-cum-Brough has contacted me and kindly given me information about the process that resulted in the parish council becoming a town council. She also confirmed that both Brough and Elloughton are villages. That means that the town council area has two villages and no towns in it.


Sander said...

In Belgium, municipalities can get a "city" our "town" title (we have no different terms for it). After that, it can legally be called "city" instead of just "municipality". But quite often, the title is old and doesn't get removed when the importance of the location drops. F.e. Mesen has a city title, but doesn't even have 1000 inhabitants (a third of the rather small village I live in).

So in Belgium, we opted to go for raw numbers instead. More than 10 000 inh to get a town title. More than 100 000 inh to get a city title. And that's working quite well so far. At least it has the effect that more important names also get rendered bigger.

(Note that the titles are given to municipalities these days, which normally consist of multiple settlements that get unified under one name).

Anonymous said...

Elloughton-cum-Brough has a populous of circa 12,000 residents and a budget precept of circa 151,000. The town council are all volunteers who give up their time for the good of the town.
In recent weeks in the news regarding the £4,000 on silver chairman's civic chains this is dwarfed by the £240,000+ that is spent on some chains of solid gold worn in some places.
Just trying to put things in context and balance things.

Chris Hill said...

My real interest is in the status of the villages / towns. I mentioned the regalia to underscore that getting comments from council bodies may be difficult. The money is not much concern to me, it's not on my council tax and if people in Elloughton-cum-Brough are not happy they will get the option to vote for someone else at the next election.

As to the population, Cottingham has over 17,000 residents and no ambiguity: it is a village in a civil parish.

A name on comments always give them more weight.