PARISH councillors have decided against challenging a County Durham estate over ownership of a village green.

Members of Middleton-in-Teesdale Parish Council were told they could have a claim to the village green after the Raby Estate contacted Land Registry to formally apply for the title to the area.

Advice from the County Durham Association of Local Councils suggested the parish council could challenge ownership as it had maintained the green for a number of years.

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However, councillors decided there was little to gain from such challenge.

Parish council chairman John Cronin said: “Attempting to gain the title would be a terribly long struggle.

“What would we be gaining other than costing the rate payers an awful lot of money?” he asked.

It is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the parish council and the Raby Estate over who is responsible for the maintenance of mature trees on the green, some of which overhang the main B6282 road through the village.

At the parish council's April meeting this week, Coun Cronin said: “Raby insist we had taken over maintenance of the village green in the dim and distant past but they have failed to produce the document.”

The meeting was told emails had been sent to the Raby Estate asking for the agreement to be produced and despite a reminder, no response had been received.

Clerk Alison Brown said she would look through the parish council's archive to see if there was any record of an agreement or any by-laws allowing the parish to be custodians of the green.

In the meantime, members agreed to write to Lord Barnard to “put him on notice” that the parish council would have nothing to do with any mature trees on the green.

The meeting was told younger trees on the green, including a fir and monkey puzzle tree planted by the carnival committee and an immature ash put in by the WI, remained their responsibility, not the parish council's.

While members noted there was currently no evidence of a maintenance agreement with the Raby Estate, the parish council will continue to cut the grass on the green, in line with previous years.