Why your opinions are vital in shaping West Suffolk’s boundaries
If changing district and borough council ward boundaries was simply a numbers game the council officers and Boundary Commission would not need your help.
But it involves communities. In an urban area you might move a street into a neighbouring ward to make up numbers, but does that separate it from its community centre?
In a rural area numbers might suggest moving a hamlet into the nearest village’s ward, but there may not be a direct route between the two.
That is why a consultation is going on until March 28 to find out what everyone who lives in St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath thinks of the options the councils’ officers and a cross-party group of councillors have come up with for the way the new West Suffolk Council’s wards will look. Your views are needed to support the councils’ suggestions going to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England by May 4.
Feedback is wanted on which of the suggested ward shapes people prefer, though officers need to know why people like or dislike them and to hear suggestions for changes, though these must take account of population.
The commission will then use those views to create its own proposals for which there will be a consultation in June and July.
Anyone can put proposals to the commission, but they have to meet three criteria: electoral equality, effective and convenient local government and community identity.
Electoral equality means wards must be around the same size, which for West Suffolk is 2,055 voters per councillor, give or take 10 per cent.
The other criteria includes things like parts of the ward being connected and not splitting communities between wards.
The two councils wards were due for their 20-year review anyway, because of the way populations have changed with housing developments.
There are two options for rural wards. Some of the new wards straddle the old borough and district border so Risby and Barnham become one ward and Forest Heath’s old Manor Ward extends east to take in Lackford.
For the Rushbrooke with Rougham Parish Council north ward, between the A14 and the railway line to its north, the options are to be included in the Moreton Hall East ward or in a ward with the rest of the parish.
Honington was split between village and base, but the proposal is for one ward.
For the rural ward maps and options click here.
In all the urban areas, the councils need to know if people feel they have got the boundaries right for the communities.
For Bury St Edmunds there are four options all are based on eight wards with two councillors each and the St Olaves ward takes in the new Marham Park estate in all of them. For the Bury maps and options click here.
Mildenhall has two options for its three councillors’ wards. One option is for three wards, in area size order Kingsway, Queensway and Great Heath, or two: Market mostly south of the A1101 and West Row Road, and a larger Great Heath ward with two councillors.
For Mildenhall maps and options click here
Brandon is spilt in the same way as Mildenhall for three councillors. It the two ward option Brandon West, with two councillors, mostly west of the B1106, and Brandon East, taking in Santon Downham. The three ward option adds a Brandon Central ward.
For Brandon maps and options click here.
Newmarket has six councillors split between either three or six wards. The three ward option suggests a North ward taking in Studlands Park in a rough triangle from Exning Road to Snailwell Road, East stretches from the Post Office to the A1304/B1506 junction and West takes in the Heath.
The six ward option adds more wards in the central are of the town, though this means the High Street is split between three.
For Newmarket maps and options click here.
Haverhill’s two options are both for six wards, four with two councillors and two with one each. However, the two options have different ward boundaries with the East ward having two councillors in one and one in the other.
The hope is that feedback will establish who communities feel their neighbours are – for example, should the boundary between North and North-West wards be along Park Road or Withersfield Road?
For Haverhill maps and options click here.
Councillors Carol Bull of St Edmundsbury and Ruth Bowman of Forest Heath, chairwoman and vice-chairwoman of the of the Future Governance Steering Group, said in a joint statement: “The Local Government Boundary Commission for England will consider all the options we put forward but ultimately they will make the final decision.
“We need to know what things people like and why, as well as what they don’t like so we can pass on these points of view to the LGBCE.
“The new suggested wards use existing parish council boundaries as the building blocks and follow the guidelines of the LGBCE to make sure there is equitable representation in each one.
“These are not the final proposals, which is why we urge people to go onto our website and have their say.”