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Battle won as villagers see off boundary change

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The fear of Wisbech St Mary and Parson Drove being split under proposed boundary changes lifted with publication of the new proposals for Fenland.

The news has been welcomed by Fenland District councillor Sarah Bligh.

“I would just like to say a BIG thank you to everyone that took the time to write into the boundary commission regarding the proposed ward changes,” she said.

“I am delighted that the ward has been retained (with the addition of Gorefield) and I will be able to stand again next May for the area I know and have supported for the last seven years.”

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) has published its final recommendations and Parson Drove, and Wisbech St Mary ward will not be split into two new wards as Fenland District Council initially proposed.

The LGBCE considered all the objections it received and took note of residents’ wishes.

The boundary commission believes Fenland should have 43 instead of 39 councillors.

Cllr Bligh left the Conservative party in 2018 to join the Liberal Democrats after “bitter infighting” and “oppressive overtones” within the Tory group.

Ninety of the 181 submissions to the boundary commissioner during the consultation were regarding the parishes of Christchurch, Elm, Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary.

The commission said: “There was widespread opposition to our proposed Parson Drove & Roman Bank and Elm & Wisbech St Mary wards.

“These submissions stated that our proposal divided the Murrow community between wards, as the community itself is divided between Parson Drove parish and Wisbech St Mary parish.

“Some residents also argued that pairing Elm parish and Wisbech St Mary parish in a ward was inappropriate due to the lack of connections between the two parishes.

“The submissions noted that the two parishes are divided by the river Nene, which only has one crossing point in this area. It was also stated that the A47 is a major trunk road which also acts as a strong boundary in the area.

“Fenland District Council support the draft recommendations in this area which were based on their proposed warding pattern.

“Fenland Independents Alliance (FIA) strongly opposed the proposals in this area, endorsing the submission by Wisbech St Mary Parish Council in their submission.

“The submission from Wisbech St Mary Parish Council addressed the Commission’s three statutory criteria when the wards in this area.

“They stated that whilst the proposed ward did provide for electoral equality, it was significantly worse than the variance that would be provided by the existing ward if retained.

“They also noted that at 9% it was towards the maximum the Commission would usually accept. The Parish Council also provided a large list of community organisations that represent the Murrow community located in both parishes of Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary.

“They reiterated the strong boundaries of the River Nene and A47 as well as the geographical size of our proposed Elm & Wisbech St Mary ward. “

The commission added: “We asked for further evidence of the communities in this area and we were pleased to receive a level of response that has enabled us to make a better-informed decision for these parishes.

“We also visited the area on our tour of Fenland to help inform our decision. As part of our tour, we were able to see first-hand the issue regarding the parish boundary in Murrow and how the village is divided between parishes.

“This helped us to conclude that the village should not be further divided between Fenland District Council wards as this would not provide for effective and convenient local government for electors.

“We also considered that such an arrangement would break the community ties of those electors who share a great number of organisations in common as well as the same service centre of Wisbech.

“Having formed this view, we then investigated warding patterns that would not divide the village.

“We looked again at the 41-councillor scheme submitted by the FIA that proposed to maintain the existing wards of Elm & Christchurch and Parson Drove & Wisbech St Mary.

“We concluded that whilst this achieved the objective of not dividing Murrow, it did not adequately reflect the communities in the main town of the district.

“In order to find a warding pattern that avoided the division of Murrow while also reflecting communities in the main towns, we therefore assessed options under 19 alternative council sizes.

” By increasing the number of councillors representing Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary parishes from two to three and by moving Gorefield parish into a Parson Drove & Wisbech St Mary ward, we can provide a warding pattern that does not divide Murrow between wards, as well as maintain the existing Elm & Christchurch ward.

“This arrangement also reflects the evidence received regarding the strong boundary between the parishes of Elm and Wisbech St Mary.

“Our final recommendations for this area are, therefore, a three-councillor Parson Drove & Wisbech St Mary ward with an electoral variance of -6% and a two[1]councillor Elm & Christchurch ward with an electoral variance of 3%.”

The Commission has published its final recommendations for new electoral arrangements for Fenland District Council.

It is proposing that Fenland should be represented by 43 councillors in future. This would mean that those councillors should represent nine three-councillor wards, seven two-councillor wards and two single-councillor wards across the district.

The new arrangements – subject to Parliamentary approval – will come into force in time for next May’s local elections.

The commission said it reviewed the number of councils as result of recent and future housing developments in the district.

Additionally, some councillors currently represent many more or fewer electors than others. We describe this as ‘electoral inequality.’

It concluded Fenland Council should have 43 councillors, four more than there are now.

Fenland will have 18 wards, six fewer than there are now. The boundaries of all but two wards should change; Doddington & Wimblington and Elm & Christchurch will stay the same

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