Storm of Protest on Boundary Changes; All Political Parties United in Opposition

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Tully

MORE than 900 objections have been lodged with the Boundary Commission over plans to alter the face of a Northumberland constituency. Under controversial current proposals, Hexham would lose Ponteland East to the Berwick seat and Haltwhistle and South Tynedale to a newly-formed Consett and Barnard Castle seat.

But the plans have raised a storm of protest and 950 representations to the Commission.

All three main political parties have united in their condemnation, with the 950 submissions over Hexham the equal of all the other 28 North East constituencies put together In addition, 21 parish councils have objected to the plans for Tynedale, with only Prudhoe Town Council giving support to the Boundary Commission. The Conservative group drew up counter-proposals and the Tories are claiming the support of the Liberal and Labour groups.

The counter-proposal calls for the retention of Ponteland East in the Hexham seat along with the rest of Ponteland, and Rothbury being put back into Berwick upon Tweed.

They also want Haltwhistle and South Tynedale retained in Hexham, with Chopwell and Rowlands Gill transferred to the Consett and Barnard Castle seat.

County councillors Eileen Armstrong (Ponteland East), Ian Hutchinson (Haltwhistle) and Colin Horncastle (South Tynedale) with Steven Bridgett (Rothbury) have also backed the counter-proposal .

The official Labour response says: "We believe that Consett and Barnard Castle is an artificial seat, which combines parts of the Derwent, Tees, Tyne and Wear valleys, runs against the natural communications links in the area, has no real community focus, is extremely disruptive of existing constituencies and breaks numerous ties. …