Fountain revival plan hits stumbling block

The site of the proposed fountain memorial in Wooler.
The site of the proposed fountain memorial in Wooler.

A community effort to return a fountain monument to the centre of Wooler has hit a stumbling block related to the ownership of the land.

The five-metre-high structure for Market Place, which will not be a working fountain, merely a memorial to the original, was approved by a county council planning committee in January.

As part of the scheme, Wooler Parish Council agreed to take on ownership of the patch of land where the monument will be sited; it was not thought to be in anyone’s ownership, but the council had looked after and maintained the area for some years.

However, at the council’s meeting on Monday night, members heard that despite racking up a £400 solicitors’ bill, no progress has been made so far.

What’s more, it has now been revealed that the site is actually highways land and the responsibility of the county council and it would be very unlikely that the Land Registry would accept the parish council’s claim in this case.

It may be possible for these rights to be extinguished via the planning application, but this would be an issue for the applicants – the fountain committee – not the parish council.

Coun Michael Aitchison, who is a member of the fountain committee, explained that the group’s chairman and treasurer are on holiday, but that they are aware of the issue and a meeting is planned for their return.

Chairman, Coun Robert Donkin, said: “I think that because we can’t guarantee registration, the parish council should drop out.”

Coun Alfreda Hindmarsh agreed: “We can’t spend any more public money.”

Coun Mark Mather said: “Should we pause it for now until we have had a meeting with the fountain group? But I agree – we can’t go to people next year and put the precept up because we tried to register land we didn’t get.”

It was agreed to instruct the solicitor to stop work for now, pending discussions with the fountain committee.

The original fountain was erected in 1879, but was demolished in the 1970s to widen the road.