Residents have slammed plans to move Cirencester out of The Cotswolds constituency.
Public hearings will begin next week on the Boundary Commission’s proposed new constituencies, which are designed to rebalance the number of people represented by each MP.
Under the plans, places such as Cirencester, Tetbury and Fairford would be taken out of The Cotswolds and made part of North Wiltshire – with the constituency renamed Cirencester and North Wiltshire.
The likes of Winchcombe and Painswick would then be added to The Cotswolds.
Ahead of the hearings, comments made during the first consultation have been made public. And the majority made by people living in the existing Cotswold constituency are critical of the plans.
“Cirencester is ‘the Capital of the Cotswolds’, it’s in Gloucestershire and has strong local ties to other Cotswold towns such as Bourton, Stow and Moreton,” said one comment.
“It makes little sense for it to be placed in a constituency with North Wiltshire. The new Boundary splits Cirencester from it’s surrounding villages meaning many families and local businesses would be in separate constituencies.”
“I see no benefit for me or the locality from this proposal. I think it is misguided and will lead to even further fragmentation of essential services,” another comment said.
Many complaints have centred around the loss of the Cotswold name. Suggestions have been made that the constituencies currently know as The Cotswolds and North Wiltshire should be named Cotswolds North and Cotswolds South or North/South Cotswolds.
“The proposed new name could have a negative impact on the economy of Cirencester which benefits from significant tourism income from being in the Cotswolds,” one comment said.
“The proposal for the town to longer be part of the Cotswolds constituency and not even having ‘Cotwolds’ in the new boundary name risks severe economic damage to the local tourism industry.”
Those in areas outside of both Cirencester and North Wiltshire also expressed concerns.
A comment made on behalf of Fairford Town Council stated: “Fairford, Lechlade and Tetbury certainly regard themselves as part of the Cotswolds, being of that character historically and from a landscape/architecture point of view, and this is important to us in ‘branding’ terms, not least for the local tourist industry.
“We are also concerned about the emphasis on Cirencester as distinct from this, which seems to ignore the rest of us.
“South Cotswolds describes a whole area, Cirencester just describes a town within that area. We would therefore suggest that the name should be ‘South Cotswold and North Wiltshire’.
Cotswold district councillor Stephen Andrews made a similar argument, saying that his ward of Lechlade, Kempsford & Fairford South was not in North Wiltshire and neither ‘in the immediate environs of Cirencester’.
But other councils, including Cirencester Town Council have been more receptive to the plans.
“The proposals relating to Cirencester, in establishing a Cirencester and North Wiltshire constituency are broadly supported by Cirencester Town Council, noting the synergy and various education and community connections with the North Wiltshire catchment area,” their comment said.
“We believe that these proposals will strengthen Cirencester’s identity and democratic representation in parliament and would be further strengthened with smaller parishes to the north being included within the constituency, such as Baunton, Daglingworth and Perrott’s Brook.”
John Bloxsom, leader of the Labour group on Gloucestershire County Council, said: “We understand and accept that the county of Gloucestershire is too large for six whole constituencies and too small for seven whole constituencies.
“We believe that the formation of a constituency across the Gloucestershire/Wiltshire boundary is a suitable solution which reflects the geography of the area, ties between its communities, routes between principal towns and its local rural character.”
A secondary consultation is running until April 4. To comment on the proposed changes, members of the public can respond in writing online via the consultation website bcereviews.org.uk, by email or letter, or in person at a public hearing.
There are four hearings being held in the South West:
● Exeter, 21 to 22 March
● Gloucester, 24 to 25 March
● Bath, 28 to 29 March
● Dorchester, 31 March to 1 April
View venue details and book a ten-minute slot to speak via the Boundary Commission website at bit.ly/bcepublichearings.
Secretary to the Boundary Commission for England, Tim Bowden, said: “Constituency boundaries are changing, and this is your chance to have your say.
“Your feedback helps make our proposals the best they can be, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you during our secondary consultation.
“Our review of all constituencies in England is an important process. It will make sure each MP represents roughly the same number of electors across the country.
“Help us get our proposals for South West right – tell us your views at a public hearing or via bcereviews.org.uk before 4 April.”