WITH voters set to decide whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom later this year, and a separate poll to be conducted in 2017 over our future in Europe, it seems we just cannot get enough of referendums.
However, voters in the town of Yarm had their sights slightly smaller today when they overwhelmingly backed a move to leave the confines of industrial Teesside and instead associate themselves with the more bucolic ideal of North Yorkshire.
In a move designed to send a clear message of discord, nearly nine out of 10 residents in the town have voted in favour of leaving Stockton Borough Council and becoming part of neighbouring Hambleton in North Yorkshire.
Traditionally, Yarm was part of Yorkshire until the re-organisation of local authority boundaries in the 1970s. However today the town, which sits on the south bank of the Tees, is currently administered by Stockton Borough Council, although geographically it sits slightly apart from Middlesbrough’s other satellites.
Now that is all set to change.
The poll showed 1,465 people in the town wished to join Hambleton, with 177 opting to stay in Stockton. Turnout was 24 per cent.
The vote, called by Yarm Town Council, is not legally binding and any change, if it is to come, will require many further discussions and agreements. Critics argue the poll is unlikely to bring about any change at all but campaigners using the yarm4yorkshire twitter name disagree with how the borough council has dealt with local issues such as parking and plans to build more homes in the area.
Peter Monck, from Yarm Town Council, said he felt that the decision to move to Hambleton District Council would very little material difference to people’s lives.
“I was not surprised by the decision,” he said.
“I think a lot of it comes from people who have moved here and are not keen to be associated with Stockton, preferring to have Yorkshire as their location.”
He added that the disquiet with planning decisions had nothing to do with Stockton council as it, like all local authorities, was bound by national planning laws. He also pointed towards the fact that parking charges had recently been implemented in Northallerton.
However, Stephanie Richardson, a businesswoman from Yarm who has campaigned for the change, said it would make a “huge difference”.
“Currently are extremely difficult to be found,” she said. “At the moment we are lost, we do not belong to the Yorkshire Tourist Board, we are just off of everybody’s radar.”
Stockton Council said it would be inappropriate to comment on the results of the poll until Yarm Town Council had an opportunity “to fully consider the results” or the Boundary Commission asked it to look into the matter further.
Stockton Council leader Bob Cook said the local authority delivered “a huge range of very high quality services”.
He said local people reported very high satisfaction with the council and added: “Of course, like all councils, there are times when we have to make difficult decisions and we absolutely understand that people have strong views on issues such as parking and on planning applications for new houses.”
• People in Yarm have shown their determination to restore Yorkshire’s ancient boundaries but there are many examples of parts of the region that have chopped and changed.
Over the years some other areas which Yorkshire has lost include Middlesbrough and surrounding area, Sedbergh to Cumbria, Bowland, Barnoldswick and Earby, now in Lancashire and Saddleworth, now part of Oldham.
Yarm itself remains a highly popular place to live, offering a vibrant nightlife with bars which attract Premier League footballers.
Former England and current Derby County boss Steve McClaren is a regular visitor to the High Street and has family living nearby.