Comet country ward shake-up in Boundary Commission proposals

ELECTION boundary proposals which were leaked today (Tuesday) reveal that several Comet country wards are set to expand and change, with Nadine Dorries’ Mid-Bedfordshire seat possibly scrapped.

The shake-up, which was announced by the Boundary Commission, proposes to remove Ms Dorries’ ward, splitting the areas it covers between a new Letchworth constituency and an amended Hitchin and Harpenden.

But Ms Dorries, who will put in an appeal, said that she wasn’t worried by the proposals.

“I’m a year into my five year term, I’ve still got four years to go,” she said.

“To me, it’s business as normal. There are a lot of things to happen, there’s a vote in 2013, an appeal process and a consultation process. I’m not worried, I’ll just wait to see what happens.

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“We are putting in an appeal, but it’s a long process. I will just carry on as normal. I will continue to represent my constituents, that’s what I’m here for.”

The Letchworth constituency - currently Oliver Heald’s North-East Hertfordshire ward - would lose Gravely and Walkern, and gain Arlesey, Stotfold and Potton.

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Mr Heald said: “I’m obviously sad to lose any part of my current constituency which is a privilege to represent.

“Otherwise, these are initial proposals, there’s a 12 week consultation period. Stotfold, Arlesey and Potton are areas I know very well, they’re places which a lot of people who work in Letchworth live.

“It’s an area I have known very well for a number of years but we will have to see what the final proposals are.”

MP Stephen McPartland’s Stevenage constituency is also proposed to change. It would gain the Gravely, Wymondley, Great Ashby, Walkern and Benington.

Mr McPartland said: “I am really pleased with the proposed boundary changes and delighted that I keep my existing constituency of Stevenage, Knebworth, Codicote, Datchworth and Aston. I believe including the Great Ashby Area, Graveley, Little Wymondley and Great Wymondley makes sense and of course I look forward to welcoming back Walkern and Benington.

“Everyone in these areas will work and use many of the services in the town of Stevenage such as our schools, hospital and shops, which are benefiting from the massive �250m investment programme that I have secured from the Government.

“I know many of the experts are predicting this will mean a much bigger majority for the Conservatives in Stevenage at the next election, but I am staying focused on delivering real results for my constituents.”

MP Peter Lilley, who represents Hitchin and Harpenden, would get Langford, Henlow, Silsoe and Shillington and Shefford included in his constituency. He would lose Great Ashby and Wymondley.

Hitchin and Harpenden would remain together - a decision that has bewildered some.

One of those is Cllr Judi Billing, who feels that there is no link between the two towns.

She said: “From the point of view of Hitchin folk, I think the Boundary Review proposals are both a dog’s breakfast and a missed opportunity.

“Hitchin and Harpenden have never had any link in the hearts and minds of local people, and to now make it even messier with chunks of Bedfordshire makes no sense at all.

“North Herts as a council area was only invented in 1974, but at least we all recognise our links with Letchworth and Baldock, pay our council tax and get communications from this existing entity.

“How very much more coherent it would have been to link us back with the rest of North Herts than to retain the meaningless tie with Harpenden and then make it even sillier. I hope enough people will act to make the Boundary Commission think again.”

MPs have until December to appeal against the proposals in a consultation. The findings of these will then be used to revise proposals, before submitted to Parliament in autumn 2013.

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