Last night, at the full council meeting, I argued against the Tory-led proposal to split off a small part of North Hinksey parish and put it in another district ward with areas further to the south. I was voted down, pretty much across party lines. There was one interesting exception: I was supported by Tory Councillor Jane Crossley, of Sunningwell and Wooton. But the other local member for North Hinksey and Wytham, Tory Cllr Eric Batts, voted against my proposal, and FOR splitting off the southeastern part of North Hinksey into a ward with Boars Hill and Sunningwell.
I’ll keep fighting to keep the parish in the same district ward.
Here’s what I said last night:
LGBCE (Local Government Boundary Commission for England) have explicit criteria for making boundary changes. One is, ‘Provide boundaries that reflect natural communities’. The Vale working group agreed another criteria, ‘Use whole parishes as building blocks wherever possible’.
This proposal splits the parish of North Hinksey along the A34 and along an arbitrary boundary on the west side of the A34, solely to achieve electoral equality, and at the cost of community cohesion.
Other communities have benefitted from a more rational approach to their new boundaries: the Chilton parish is preserved, as is the town of Faringdon, for reasons to do with community cohesion and avoidance of subdivision of natural boundaries. Here’s what officers say about these two communities:
- To remove part of the town (Faringdon) and place it in another ward to achieve electoral equality, would represent a wholly artificial construct that the local electorate would not recognise.
- This ward (Blewbury) comprises three parishes in the south-eastern corner of the district. The electorate is quite high but the alternative would be to sub-divide Chilton parish along the line of the A34. We do not favour this because the village lies to one side of the road and the school and new housing to the other and we would be sub-dividing a natural community if we did so.
North Hinksey parish is a natural community in the same way that Faringdon and Chilton are, and should be preserved in the same way as those two communities have been.
With nearly 4000 electors, North Hinksey parish is too big for a single one-member ward, and too small for two wards. The tabled proposal would split off a fraction of the parish and combine it with other areas further south to make up the electoral numbers. Essentially, everything east of the A34, and south of Lime Road, would be part of a ward with other distant villages with which there are no ties. It’s a far better idea to keep all of North Hinksey parish together, and add to it the several outlying areas of Wytham, South Hinksey, Boars Hill and Sunningwell to make the numbers large enough for a two member ward. Electoral equality is still achieved. The combined electorate of the two proposed wards is about 5000; that’s a 3% variance, which is well within demonstrated tolerance. No natural community boundaries are shattered.
There are more specific reasons to not split up North Hinksey Parish.
- The Lime Road development will soon bring 150 new homes to the middle of North Hinksey parish. Under the current proposal, this new estate would not be in the ward with most of North Hinksey parish, but in the ward with Sunningwell. The development of so many new homes in North Hinksey parish is a huge concern with local people. New residents will use North Hinksey services; the impact will be on local shops, schools and doctors. They will use local recreational amenities and local roads. Keeping the new homes with North Hinksey supports better planning control in a rapidly growing community and will enable better Localism with a community-minded responsibility for local issues.
- When the A34 was built in the middle of the 20th century, it sliced North Hinksey parish in half, and local people have worked hard ever since to keep both sides linked up. Pedestrian underpasses mean residents on the east side of the highway can still access their shops, schools, churches and other services on the west side. This proposal would further split the eastern part from the main part of the parish on the west, and undermine the efforts everyone has made to keep the parish together over the years.
Please support the amendment to keep North Hinksey together. There are precedents, and it meets the criteria of LGBCE and the Vale working group: it provides boundaries reflecting the natural communities in the north east corner of the Vale, and it uses parishes as the building blocks.