Monday, 21 November 2016

My alternative constituencies: Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Bristol

The final part of my alternative constituencies in South West England focuses on what was once called 'Avon' and the counties surrounding the city of Bristol i.e. Gloucestershire and Somerset.

The majority of the initial proposals are acceptable, although some tweaking needs to be done and some names need to be altered. There is no need to add the name 'Dursley' to the Thornbury & Yate constituency; Dursley is only a small market town and Thornbury and Yate themselves will still dominate the constituency. The Cotswolds constituency should not stretch to any of Stroud's outer suburbs (e.g. Nailsworth) but only to villages on the edge of Stroud which cannot be considered part of Stroud itself. Its name should also be changed to the largest town, Cirencester, because it must expand outside the Cotswolds district and because the Cotswolds is a larger area than the council area suggests. Stroud's expansion to Quedgeley, which was not transferred to the City of Gloucester until 1991, and Gloucester's gain of Longlevens ward in compensation, are wise moves that I fully approve of.

One particularly awkward problem is expanding the Forest of Dean constituency, due to the shape of the rural wards in northern Gloucestershire and the fact there are no suitable River Severn crossings on the border with the district of Stroud. This also means splitting the Forest of Dean for constituency drawing purposes is not possible, whatever problems it causes for the Tewkesbury constituency. Adding Combe Hill ward to the Forest of Dean constituency creates serious accessibility problems for the redrawn Tewkesbury constituency given that the M5 motorway runs through the eastern part of that ward, meaning that for viability purposes the easternmost polling districts of Combe Hill ward containing said M5 motorway, and the equally critical Tewkesbury Road along the A4019 that links northern Cheltenham with Tewkesbury, must be given to the Tewkesbury constituency in this exercise, which given it now contains a more substantial part of Cheltenham's suburbs should be renamed Tewkesbury & Cheltenham North.

Generally, the initial proposals for Somerset are okay, although some different names need to be used.

My alternative constituencies for Gloucestershire, Somerset and Bristol are:

Tewkesbury & Cheltenham North succeeds Tewkesbury. Within Combe Hill ward it contains polling districts ELH and UCK (see my notes above), meaning its actual electorate is 72,663.
West Gloucestershire succeeds Forest of Dean. Within Combe Hill ward it has all polling districts except for ELH and UCK, meaning its actual electorate is 71,648.
Cirencester succeeds The Cotswolds.
Midsomer Norton succeeds North East Somerset; the north east of Somerset is covered entirely by the city of Bath and the surrounding environs. Midsomer Norton is in the centre of this constituency which is why I have chosen that name.
Frome succeeds Somerton & Frome. Despite having only minor changes compared to Somerton & Frome, Somerton is not a substantial part of the constituency whereas Frome is clearly the most important town in the constituency.
Bridgwater & Minehead succeeds Bridgwater & West Somerset; Minehead easily dominates the small district of West Somerset which is really southwest Somerset.
Bristol North has the same boundaries as Bristol North West; in compass point terms it is the north of Bristol not just the north west. Incidentally, Bristol North (West) will be one of a minority of constituencies that goes unchanged in this review even though it has been changed somewhat in almost every single boundary review since 1950.
North West Somerset has the same boundaries as North Somerset; the name has been changed to reflect the reality of where it is in Somerset and the fact that the constituency of Weston-Super-Mare is also in the North Somerset council area.
Taunton has the same boundaries as the current Taunton Deane; Taunton is more recognisable than Taunton Deane and the 'Deane' in Taunton Deane is only a small and not very significant part of the district, easily dominated by Somerset's county town.
Bristol South, Weston-Super-Mare, and Yeovil are all unchanged.

The next section in my series of alternative constituencies will focus on the West Midlands.

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