The Boundary Commission has issued new proposals for the division of constituencies in Dorset, which would see several West Dorset communities move into the North Dorset constituency.
Under plans unveiled online, Cerne Abbas, Puddletown, Tolpuddle, the Piddle Valley and Cheselbourne would be shifted into North Dorset constituency, as the commission seeks to increase the number of constituencies in the south west from 55 to 58 and even up the numbers of voters in each.
Sydling St Nicholas, Buckland Newton and Minterne Magna would also move north. Chickerell would move into South Dorset.
The move is proposed because West Dorset MP Chris Loder currently has a lot more than the average number of constituents. However the communities that may be moved are not happy about the proposal – hundreds of objections have been submitted.
Neil Herbert from Piddletrenthide said: “This current proposal would effectively sever our close ties with Dorchester, which is an intrinsic and fundamentally important part of our local history and cultural heritage – Dorchester is not only the county town of Dorset, it is also the major centre of the West Dorset constituency and this draft proposal to distance us from it is totally unacceptable.
“Also, the residents of the Piddle Valley have little or no ties with North Dorset – Sturminster Newton, Blandford Forum, Gillingham and Shaftesbury are relatively alien to us and are situated a long way from the Piddle Valley.”
Neil suggests, as have many others, that if voter numbers are to be reduced the more logical transfer to North Dorset would be Sherborne, which shares more services with North Dorset.
He added: “Current voter numbers in West Dorset, which currently total 81,091 would be reduced to some 70,000 by this alternative proposal.”
Heather Pook said: “Sydling St Nicholas has always been a valuable integral member of our Chalkstream Parishes, we share a magazine and support each other’s events.
“We share a vicar (under the umbrella of Charminster Parish) together with Stratton, Bradford Peverell and Frampton – called the ‘Chalkstream’ Churches.
“To remove it from its heart in West Dorset would be ridiculous.”
She added: “Taking in Purse Caundle or Holwell would seem a more logical area to straighten up boundaries if population numbers are a deciding factor.
“Just looking at the map there are many villages remaining in West Dorset to the north of the proposed appropriation.
“I do hope this unnecessary change will be reconsidered.”
Other changes to boundaries are likely to affect us here in West Dorset, too. Yeovil would become one constituency, bordered by Glastonbury & Somerton, Taunton, and Honiton & Sidmouth constituencies.
North Dorset MP Simon Hoare would gain a sizeable chunk of West Dorset, but lose territory south of Blandford as it moves into Mid Dorset & North Poole.
He said: “It has always been recognised as commonsense that parliamentary constituencies are roughly the same population size.
“A boundary review is long overdue.
“While I am of course sad to be losing part of my constituency to Mid Dorset & North Poole I look forward to serving, if I am re-elected, those villages coming into the North Dorset seat. I commend the Boundary Commission for its work.”
West Dorset MP Chris Loder said: “I made very clear the representations of constituents that got in touch about this, but the independent Boundary Commission has not acted upon what local people have to say and I think that is very disappointing.
“I think the commission got the number of people wrong in the report.
“They said something like 250, but I think you’ll find it is almost double if you look at the list of replies.
“When the Dorset Council wards were set, there was no condition that constituency boundaries would be aligned to them.”
Eileen Reynolds from Tolpuddle said: “I’m quite happy living in West Dorset, and don’t wish to change to North Dorset. Tolpuddle isn’t in the north of the county anyway, and I don’t agree with boundaries being changed just to increase a political party’s voting results.
“As this affects so many people, the decision should be made by the people. We need to be able to vote on this.”
Rosy Turnbull said: I’m guessing this would potentially affect our secondary school catchment and the hospital we receive treatment in, amongst other major factors.
“If so, I for one am hugely against this as we have chosen to live here with what West Dorset has to offer us.”
Ian Tucker from Sydling St Nicholas said: “As far as I’m concerned, we’re still part of West Dorset. I also know Chris Loder so would be happier having him as my MP.”
Jo Cropp, also from Sydling, said: “All our services are in Dorchester and geographically we are West Dorset. There is no way we feel part of North Dorset!”
The costs of implementing the boundary changes are unknown at this stage, but are likely to be in the many millions. The review itself will cost more than £2.5m.
Emma Irwin from the Boundary Commission said: “The Boundary Commission for England has a budget of £2.5 million, excluding staffing costs, to undertake a review of parliamentary constituency boundaries – which is significantly cheaper than the previous review due to efficiency savings. The Commission has been required by Parliament to recommend a new map of constituencies in England in order to rebalance the number of electors represented by each MP, but is not responsible for the costs of implementing those changes after the recommendations have been submitted to Parliament.”
Comments on the proposals are invited at bcereviews.org.uk before December 5.