Monday, 14 November 2016

2016 Boundary Review: Proposed Changes to the Hexham Constituency

As I am sure you are aware, the Boundary Commission for England have proposed some revised boundaries for parliamentary constituencies. The public hearings began today with Ponteland East Councillor Eileen Armstrong among those making representation. These changes would see part of the Ponteland area moved from the Hexham constituency to a new constituency called Newcastle upon Tyne North West. The ward of Ponteland East is the only area that would be removed from the Hexham constituency and placed in the new one. A number of other wards would be added to the Hexham constituency including the whole of Morpeth, Rothbury, and Longhorsley. These changes would take effect in 2018.

The Boundary Commission are proposing the following:  

1. That the wards of Bellingham, Bywell, Corbridge, Ponteland South with Heddon, Ponteland West, Ponteland North, Humshaugh, Hexham Central with Acomb, Hexham West, Hexham East, Haydon & Hadrian, Stocksfield & Broomhaugh, South Tynedale, Haltwhistle, Prudhoe South and Prudhoe North remain in the Hexham constituency. Please support this.

2. That the ward of Ponteland East and Stannington is moved out of the Hexham Constituency into a new constituency, splitting Ponteland. Please oppose this.

3. That the Hexham Constituency adds in the wards of Longhorsley and Rothbury from the Berwick Constituency. Please oppose this.
The Boundary Commission is inviting local people to tell them whether or not they agree with the revised boundaries. Both myself as your MP and the County Councillor for Ponteland East and Stannington, Eileen Armstrong, together with the North East Conservative Party oppose these proposals as they stand.

We believe that the proposals should be modified on the grounds that:
There are significant inconveniences which would result from the proposed changes. The proposed constituency of Hexham & Morpeth would be one of the largest geographically in England.

Ponteland East, Stannington, and Whalton are primarily rural areas. Whalton, Ogle, and Belsay do not connect to any of the Newcastle boundary lines and if the Ponteland East & Stannington ward is removed from the Hexham constituency these areas would be represented by a primarily urban, Newcastle based MP.

Important local ties would be broken by the proposed changes. For example, the town of Ponteland would literally be split; meaning the High School, Middle School, Leisure Centre, Golf Club and some of the town centre would be represented by a different MP to the MP representing most of the residents. The dividing line would also mean a Northumberland MP represented one half of Eastern Way and a Newcastle MP the other side! 

We have together agreed an alternative set of proposals which I hope you will support. Our proposals, drawn up locally, see the Hexham constituency maintain all of the existing wards (including Ponteland East & Stannington) and expand to take on some areas of Cramlington. The Berwick upon Tweed constituency would then take on Morpeth.

The above proposals fit within the Boundary Commission’s requirements on equal voter numbers, and we believe that they make much more sense from a geographical, cultural, economic and historic perspective, taking into account local ties.

I hope that you will write to the Boundary Commission as I would not want to allow anything to change unopposed at this stage, that may result ultimately in Ponteland East & Stannington, together with Whalton, becoming part of Newcastle City Council in the future. These wards need to stay as part of the Hexham constituency with a Northumberland MP that understands rural issues. Thank you.

We have provided some guidelines to writing your response to the Boundary Commission:
Should you OBJECT to the Boundary Commission’s proposals to remove Ponteland East & Stannington from the Hexham constituency, please write to the Boundary Commission for England outlining your concerns. The most effective objections will contain concerns about:

Geography, including size, shape, and accessibility
Boundaries of the existing constituency
Any local ties that would be broken
Inconveniences attendant on the changes

Please make it clear that whilst accepting the need to expand in some way to reach the new electorate quotas, you support our proposals to maintain the current Hexham Constituency as it stands with Ponteland East & Stannington.

The deadline for the Commission receiving your comments is 5 December, 2016 and we urge you to act as soon as you can. The consultation on the initial proposals will run for 12 weeks between 13 September and 5 December 2016, following the publication of initial proposals. All comments from this consultation will be published in early 2017 as part of the secondary consultation.

The Boundary Commission’s address is 35 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BQ. Alternatively, feedback can be submitted on their website where you will also find further information about the changes