As you leave Cullingworth and head for the A629 in the direction of Denholme there is a fuzzy moment. It’s OK, there’s not some discontinuity in the space-time continuum – one of those shaky camera moments beloved of Dr Who. The fuzzy moment refers to the boundary. There are two rows on terraces either side of what is called Doctor’s Bridge (for reasons unknown to me) one of which is in the Parish of Cullingworth and one in the Town of Denholme. However, the post office thinks both terraces are in Cullingworth and the Council thinks both are in Denholme. The boundary here is fuzzy but that fuzziness really doesn’t matter – it seems unlikely that open warfare will erupt between the two villages making the fuzzy boundary a quaint curiosity rather than a potential problem.
However, where we live is important to our sense of being. I may be able to announce myself – in a fit of libertarian grandiloquence – as a ‘citizen of the world’ but when it comes down to it, that’s a pretty meaningless statement insofar as you want to understand who I am. I’ve said before that one of the great weaknesses of fundamentalist liberalism is that is doesn’t grasp the idea – let alone the importance – of place. The response to my fuzzy boundary observation might well be ‘so what’ which rather misses the point.
Which takes us to how we determine the boundaries of place – and just as importantly, who decides those edges? We could talk about how betopied colonialists with bristling moustaches and swagger sticks drew arbitrary lines on the map thereby creating the conditions for all the wars of today’s world. But this discussion is to laden with preconceived ideas, sacred cows and bigotry for us to understand the issue of the fuzzy boundary. So, in the spirit of understanding, I shall stick close to Cullingworth and will consider the “Great Ward Boundary Dispute” of 2003.
In 2002 and 2003 there was a review of ward boundaries for the Bradford Metropolitan District. This was needed to equalise the size of the wards and to capture – in our political boundaries – the changes since the previous review back in the 1980s. As a result of this review – and I’ll spare you the full gory detail – it was proposed that a small part of Bingley Rural ward would be moved into the adjacent Heaton ward. This small part consisted of a little place called New Brighton and thirty or so houses on Stoney Ridge Road and North Bank Road.
In the end New Brighton remained happily located within Bingley Rural but the transfer of the Stoney Ridge and North Bank area resulted in a terrible outcry. They were being moved ‘into Bradford’ which would reduce their house values, raise their insurance prices and visit upon the all kinds of terrible plagues. These houses are in Bingley and should not be moved out of Bingley – every historical, moral and social imperative said this (to borrow from Peppone) and the proposal was an outrage. (I have added some extra eggs to this to make the point).
We now have a fuzzy edge – thirty or so houses that the post office places in Bingley were now in Heaton ward. The ancient boundary between Bingley and Bradford has been corrupted just as the Shipley-Bradford boundary was breached by the attaching of Frizinghall to Heaton. On one level it doesn’t really matter but it does rather illustrate how the imposition of boundaries by well-meaning outsiders can prove something of a problem. Indeed the result may just be as Giovanni Guareschi imagined!
Fontanile was divided from the "capital" by just such a stream, and for twenty years no one had seen so much water in it. Night had fallen, but Don Camillo paced nervously up and down the road leading along the bank. His nervousness did not pass until he heard the brakes of a big car. The car was full of policemen, and with their arrival Don Camillo went back to the rectory and hung his shotgun on the wall. After supper Peppone came to see him, looking very glum.
"Did you call the police?" he asked Don Camillo.
"Of course I did, after you staged that diversion at Case Nuove in order to have a free hand for your other mischief, yes, and after you cut the telephone and telegraph wires, too."
Peppone looked at him scornfully.
"You're a traitor!" he said. "You asked for foreign aid. A man without a country, that's what you are!"
Or, God forbid, worse.