1st April 2014 marked 40 years since the 1972 Local Government Act came into force on 1st April 1974. For many people, it seemed, life would never be the same again.
Huge sections of land around the perimeter of Yorkshire were to be transferred into Lancashire and two new administrative Counties, Humberside and Cleveland were formed which stretched across the River Humber into Lincolnshire and across the River Tees into Durham respectively.
Residents of Whitby and Great Ayton fought off proposals to include their towns in the new Cleveland County. A last minute bid by residents of Guisborough came too late to influence Government ministers.
Very soon people were beginning to realise the changes were not as they were first portrayed by the press in graphics showing huge chunks of Yorkshire being separated off.
In 1974, and repeated many times since, Government statements confirmed the changes were for local government purposes only. For all other purposes “Yorkshire is still Yorkshire.”
1977 North Yorkshire County Council realised that it was not a place but an organisation. A memo was sent to staff insisting that on all documents the words North Yorkshire County Council should be used rather than County of North Yorkshire.
The 1992 Local Government Act, which abolished Cleveland and Humberside, creating new unitary Councils that did not cross traditional county boundaries, came into force on 1st April 1996. John Major MP, then Prime Minister, appeared on television to say the changes “would allow people to re-associate themselves with the Ridings of Yorkshire.”
In the years since much has been done to promote real Yorkshire for all cultural, ceremonial, sporting and postal purposes. Boundary signs for the Historic West Riding and County Palatine of Lancashire have returned to their original places on the Lancashire Yorkshire border.
Yorkshire has most clearly won the - is it Yorkshire or is it Humberside argument. Hull fully embraces Yorkshire and the unitary council close by named itself East Riding.
Many people have returned to using Yorkshire as part of their postal address. Redcar and Cleveland Council have recognised the advantages that brand Yorkshire can bring for tourism purposes and continues to display signs on it’s boundaries recognising it is part of the historic North Riding of Yorkshire.
Celebrating Yorkshire Day on 1st August was created by the Yorkshire Ridings Society (YRS) in 1975 and has become a regular event in the area. Many other counties have now followed suit throughout the UK. In 2007, under my previous term as Chairman of YRS, we got the Yorkshire flag officially registered with the Flag Institute and it can now be flown without planning permission on any building.
It has to be admitted that re-associating with Yorkshire in the area south of the Tees has been harder than elsewhere in the County. The allegiance to Teesside and Cleveland is very strong. Teesside suits the catchment areas of many organisations who refer to us as the people of Teesside. But we are also referred to as the people of Tees Valley, Cleveland or whatever the name the local Council is currently using. It can be really confusing.
Many local ‘politicians’ are afraid of recognising the area as part of Yorkshire because they think it might lead to local government re-organisation and they will become part of “Tory” North Yorkshire. Other people want to “transfer to North Yorkshire” when they disagree with a decision one of the local Councils have taken.
Being part of Yorkshire has nothing to do with local government. Middlesbrough, Guisborough, Loftus, Redcar, Saltburn, Thornaby and Yarm are Yorkshire and Yorkshire is those towns. It does not stop someone being a Teessider and Cleveland is as much part of Yorkshire as Craven is or the Dales.
Among the aims of the YRS are to encourage people to use Yorkshire as part of their postal address, for the real boundaries to be shown on maps along with local government areas and for boundary signs to appear on our roads.
Yorkshire is one of the world’s most powerful tourism brands and we deserve to be part of it.
Councillor Chris Abbott
Chairman Yorkshire Ridings Society