VILLAGERS are exploring the pros and cons of setting up their own parish council.

More than 30 people attended a meeting in Howden-le-Wear to discuss the idea, with the majority of people in favour of taking the proposal forward.

Supporters believe the creation of a parish council would give residents more control over what happens in the village, ensuring their voices are heard in relation to important issues such as new housing developments.

They also hope it could provide additional funding to enhance the area, such as protecting green spaces and maintaining and improving flower planters and baskets.

There is the potential for the parish to incorporate surrounding communities such as Fir Tree, North Bitchburn and High Grange, but more clarification on boundaries is needed.

Crook councillor Patricia Jopling, who chaired the meeting in Howden-le-Wear Village Hall last week, said: “I was approached by residents who expressed an interest in setting up a parish council and asked for advice.

“The best thing I felt to do was to hold a meeting and to bring a member of another parish council along to give everyone an overview. There was a good turnout at the meeting, at least 30 people, and they all seemed enthusiastic about taking it to the next stage.

“In my view, this would be arranging for an officer from Durham County Council’s democratic services team to come along and meet people.

“Parish councils do an awfully good job and I would not be against having one in Howden-le-Wear if it’s what the residents want.”

Resident Irene Brian said: “I was pleased with the turn out and the fact so many people have taken an interest.

“Having a parish council would give us more input into what happens here. There have been quite a few unpopular planning applications put forward for the village in recent years and a parish council would have to be consulted on these matters.

“There is a lot to think about. People may have concerns about the precept, for example.”

In order to set up a town or parish council, residents must present a petition to Durham County Council containing signatures from at least 7.5 per cent of electors. This figure is higher in areas with less than 2,500 electors.

If the petition is valid the local authority will carry out a community governance review to see if a parish council should be created. This would include a public consultation.