Thursday, 03 December 2020

We’ve been ignored, say parishes over plans to link them

PARISH councils claim they have been ignored as proposed changes to electoral ward boundaries are set to be finalised.

PARISH councils claim they have been ignored as proposed changes to electoral ward boundaries are set to be finalised.

The Local Government Boundary Commission has published its final recommendations which it says will unite communities.

But the parish councils in Sonning Common and Shiplake, which are set to become part of the same ward, are unhappy, saying they are “poles apart”.

The commission is recommending the villages become part of the same two-member ward alongside the parishes of Eye and Dunsden, Binfield Heath and Harpsden.

Tudor Taylor, who chairs Shiplake Parish Council, said: “We wrote to say we were against the commission’s recommendations but we have been ignored.

“We don’t know anybody in Sonning Common and we don’t have anything in common at all. There is no connection in terms of community. We feel we are similar to Harpsden, RotherfieldPeppard and other villages and hamlets because we have similar interests and planning concerns and we really don’t understand what Sonning Common is about.

“Their issues are much more urban-orientated. I think communities of a similar size should be put together.”

Douglas Kedge, who chairs Sonning Common Parish Council, agreed, saying: “The commission has cut through common sense. Sonning Common and Shiplake are two very different areas. Our village is large enough to be an independent one-ward unit.”

The commission says it did consider alternative views but felt it was better to unite than divide communities.

It says: “Respondents argued in favour of an alternative pattern of wards so that the area is represented by a single-member Sonning Common ward and a single-member Shiplake ward.

“However, such a division of our proposed ward would lead to high levels of electoral inequality or would have significant knock-on effects in neighbouring areas.

“The commission’s decision is whether to include two communities that do not seem to share strong ties or to split other communities from those with which they have close associations. We consider it preferable to unite two communities than to split one community.

“The commission therefore confirms its draft recommendations for two-member Sonning Common and Woodcote and Rotherfield ward as final.”

The commission also recommends that Kidmore End becomes part of two single-member wards also covering Whitchurch and Goring.

A two-member ward would incorporate Benson and Warborough but not Nuffield. There would also be a single-member ward for Watlington incorporating the parish of Swyncombe. Henley would have one three-member ward instead of the two wards each with two councillors.

The proposals would reduce the total number of South Oxfordshire district councillors by a quarter from 48 to 36.

Twenty-eight parish and town councils responded to the consultation.

Max Caller, who chairs the commission, said: “We are extremely grateful to the people of South Oxfordshire who took the time and effort to send us their views.

“Across the district, we have sought to balance these views with the criteria we must apply when we are deciding on new electoral arrangements.

“We believe these recommendations deliver electoral equality for voters as well as reflecting the identities of communities across South Oxfordshire.”

The recommendations must be approved by Parliament before coming into force at the district council elections in 2015.

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