'Historic' links in Preston and Chorley could be cut by boundary changes, politicians warn
Politicians from across Central Lancashire are reminding residents to have their say on proposals that could see major changes to how they are represented in Parliament after the next general election.
As part of a recently-launched review of constituency boundaries, several areas with historic ties to one part of the region may end up being transferred - for electoral purposes - somewhere else entirely.
The independent Boundary Commission for England is currently consulting on how to redraw the parliamentary map in order to create broadly similar-sized constituencies - and ensure electoral fairness by ironing out any discrepancies that have occurred as a result of population changes since the exercise was last carried out 11 years ago.
The deadline for submissions to a consultation on its initial proposals - which could see significant shifts in Preston, Chorley, South Ribble, Ribble Valley and Wyre - is 2nd August.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that constituency and council areas of the same name do not mirror each other’s boundaries - meaning residents can reside in one location for local government and another for national.
Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick who has represented the city for 21 years, insists that people do care about the issue - but is warning that any changes could happen “under their noses” if they are not aware of what is being proposed.
Under the plans, the centre of gravity of the Labour-held Preston constituency would shift west and north. As well as absorbing Fulwood from the abolished Wyre and Preston North seat, it would lose the areas around Red Scar, Ribbleton, Fishwick and Frenchwood to Ribble Valley - while drawing in the whole of Lea and Larches and also Ingol and Cottam from the Fylde constituency.
“The logic of boundary changes make sense in terms of what they are trying to do in theory, [but] it’s a bit like a jigsaw - the end doesn’t take shape until you have done all the other [parts] and it might not necessarily be the shape you want. I think that's what's happening with Preston.
“At the moment, it’s basically most of the urban central and core parts of Preston that have been in the constituency for over 30 years now. A proposal to take places like Fishwick and Ribbleton out of Preston are quite dramatic - and to then put them into Ribble Valley, with which they have got absolutely no relationship in terms of communities, history or previous connection, is bizarre really.”
“Similarly, with Lea and Larches...there’s no obvious community reason for it, I think this is just backwash from changes elsewhere in the county,” Sir Mark added.
Ribble Valley Tory MP Nigel Evans is equally puzzled over some of the areas that he would acquire from Preston.
“Sir Mark Hendrick has quite rightly indicated that neither Fishwick nor Ribbleton have ever had an association with the Ribble Valley - and are, indeed, the gateways into Preston city.
“I hope that the Boundary Commission will listen to the representations that have been made, as any unnecessary movement of wards from one constituency to another should be avoided.
“Like any member of Parliament, I'd be disappointed to lose any of my constituency, but I do appreciate that the number of voters within each constituency should be within a certain margin, added Mr. Evans, who would see Farington move from his area into South Ribble under the proposed changes - while he would gain the Grimsargh, Goosnargh, Woodplumpton and Catforth areas should he be re-elected in 2024.
Conservative-held South Ribble - where Katherine Fletcher won the seat in 2019 - could lose whole swathes of its western section around Banks, Hesketh Bank and Tarleton, while gaining Bamber Bridge as well as Farington and so becoming more closely-aligned to the borders of the South Ribble Council area.
There could be similar moves in Chorley - held by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle since 1997 - which would take in the borough council areas around Croston, Eccleston and Bretherton, but would lose Adlington and the eastern-most parts of the current constituency footprint to a new West Pennine Moors constituency.
It was the latter prospect that a meeting of Chorley Council earlier this week heard had caused consternation amongst locals, whose area had been part of the borough’s parliamentary constituency for just over a century.
“To be linked into Darwen - that’s a stretch. To be linked over to Haslingden and Rawtenstall, that’s too much,” said deputy council leader Peter Wilson.
He said that a future MP - of whatever political persuasion - would be “torn” between representing a constituency with so many differences.
Adlington and Anderton borough councillor Kim Snape revealed that one elderly constituent had told her she had been left “in tears” over the proposal, while Cllr June Molyneaux - who also represents the ward, said she had simply been told by one local: ‘We want to stay with Chorley - that's where we belong.’.”
Meanwhile, Chorley North East councillor Jenny Whiffen said it was "a little odd" that her ward had Chorley in its very name - even though it was poised to be moved out of the constituency with the same moniker.
She said that it would take half an hour by car and 90 minutes by bus for people living in her area to travel to Darwen if they wanted to see their new West Pennine Moors MP in-person - and noted that the village of Whittle-le-Woods would effectively be split in two, with one half staying in Chorley and the other being jettisoned.
"How ridiculous is that, why does one village need two MPs," Cllr Whiffen asked.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Visit the Boundary Commission's North West constituency proposals page here. There will be a second round of consultation based on responses tot he current stage next year.
Within each current parliamentary constituency in Central Lancashire these are the district council wards that it is proposed will be moved from one seat to another under the suggested changes (constituencies in upper case, wards in lower case):
Adlington and Anderton >>> WEST PENNINE MOORS (new seat)
Chorley North East >>> WEST PENNINE MOORS (new seat)
Ingol and Cottam (currently split between Fylde and Preston) >>> PRESTON (wholly)
Lea and Larches (currently split between Fylde and Preston) >>> PRESTON (wholly)
Fishwick and Frenchwood >>> RIBBLE VALLEY
Ribbleton >>> RIBBLE VALLEY
Bamber Bridge East >>> SOUTH RIBBLE
Bamber Bridge West >>> SOUTH RIBBLE
Farington East >>> SOUTH RIBBLE
Farington West >>> SOUTH RIBBLE
Croston, Mawdesley and Euxton South >>> CHORLEY
Eccleston, Heskin and Charnock Richard (north-western part) >>> CHORLEY (wholly)
Hesketh with Becconsall >>> SOUTHPORT
Rufford >>> SOUTHPORT
Tarleton >>> SOUTHPORT
WYRE AND PRESTON NORTH (to be abolished)
Brock with Catterall >>> LANCASTER
Cadley (currently split between WYRE & PRESTON NORTH and PRESTON >>> PRESTON (wholly)
Calder >>> LANCASTER
Garrison >>> PRESTON
Garstang >>> LANCASTER
Great Eccleston >>> LANCASTER
Greyfriars >>> PRESTON
Hambleton and Stalmine >>> LANCASTER
Preston Rural East >>> RIBBLE VALLEY
Preston Rural North >>> RIBBLE VALLEY
Sharoe Green >>> PRESTON