Concern Shrewsbury's rural influence could be lost through boundary changes

Concern has been voiced that Shrewsbury could lose some of its rural influence under plans to shift the county’s parliamentary boundaries.

Councillor Dan Morris’ (right) ward could no longer be represented by Shrewsbury & Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski (left)
Councillor Dan Morris’ (right) ward could no longer be represented by Shrewsbury & Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski (left)

The Boundary Commission’s initial recommendations, revealed earlier this week, would see Daniel Kawczynski’s Shrewsbury & Atcham constituency renamed to just ‘Shrewsbury’, with the border closing in on the south east of the town.

The lost wards of Burnell and Severn Valley – representing an electorate of 7,510, would be annexed to Philip Dunne’s Ludlow constituency, to be renamed ‘Ludlow and Bridgnorth’.

Meanwhile Owen Paterson’s North Shropshire constituency would lose 6,503 electors in the council divisions of Hodnet and Cheswardine.

They would move to the Wrekin constituency, which could see its name changed to ‘Newport and Wellington’.

Councillor Dan Morris, who represents Burnell, said his large rural ward was “split” between communities which see themselves as being appended to Shrewsbury and those which gravitate south.

He said: “In the north of Burnell in villages like Condover, Dorrington and Pulverbatch people generally tend to look towards Shrewsbury.

“However the further south down the A49 you go, in other villages in Burnell like Leebotwood, Smethcott and Cardington people can tend to look towards Church Stretton.

“In addition the majority of Burnell ward sits in the secondary school catchment area of Church Stretton.

“So Burnell as a ward really is split within the parliamentary boundaries in Shropshire.”

The Boundary Commission wants to address the disparity in voter numbers between constituencies by bringing them within the range of 69,724 and 77,062 electors.

The new limits mean Shrewsbury and North Shropshire, which both have electorates of over 80,000, will need to be cut down.

Daniel Kawczynski has said he is 'very concerned' by the proposed changes

Councillor Morris said: “With Shrewsbury needing to ‘lose’ some constituents, from a geographical point of view this seems a reasonable change.

“But I would worry that our county market town of Shrewsbury, generally known as a town with a rich seam of countryside and agricultural heritage, would lose some of that rural influence in its make-up by giving up a rural ward like Burnell.”

Councillor Claire Wild, who represents the Severn Valley division, which includes Atcham, Cressage and Cross Houses, said she was concerned that communities so close and naturally connected to Shrewsbury could find themselves in a different constituency.

She said: “For instance the parish of Atcham goes all the way up to Weeping Cross. I think it’s going to be hard to explain to somebody who lives in Weeping Cross that they are actually part of the Ludlow and Bridgnorth constituency.

“I don’t understand really why they’ve done what they’ve done.

“I think there will be some concern from some of the parishes I represent over the changes, certainly the ones that are very close to Shrewsbury.

“Shrewsbury is Shrewsbury and Atcham constituency, and yet actually Atcham is going into Ludlow and Bridgnorth.”

Mr Kawczynski has said he was “very concerned” about the changes and would be talking to other county MPs about the proposals.

Meanwhile in the north of the county, the councillors for Hodnet and Cheswardine said they were keeping an open mind on the proposals and wanted to hear people’s views.

Councillor Rob Gittins, who represents Cheswardine, said: “At the end of the day it’s a review which has been opened to consultation, and I’m very interested to hear the views and thoughts of residents.”

Councillor Gittins, whose ward also includes Hinstock and Child’s Ercall, paid tribute to Owen Paterson for his work in serving the people of his ward for 24 years.

Mr Paterson has said it would be “sad” to lose communities he has represented for so long, but conceded that it was “inevitable” that his constituency would need to be cut down.

North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson would lose more than 6,000 constituents from Hodnet and Cheswardine

Under the Boundary Commission’s initial proposals, North Shropshire will become the largest constituency in the UK in terms of electorate, with 77,052 voters.

Councillor Gittins said: “Owen Paterson has worked very hard for the constituents of Cheswardine since 1997.

“I would like to thank him for all the work he has done for people in this area.

“He is very sad to to be losing both my division and Hodnet, but these things are just open to consultation at the moment.”

Councillor Gill, who was elected to represent Hodnet just last month, said he would be talking to residents before responding to the proposals.

He said: “At the moment this is a review, and what I will be keen to do over the next few weeks is canvass some feeling and thought from residents and all the parish councils.

“What’s most important in my mind is the views of the residents I represent.”

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