The independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) has suggested new ward boundaries for the city which will radically reshape Queen Edith’s with respect to the county council – and perhaps, eventually, the city council too. An eight-week public consultation on the recommendations begins today and will end on 6 July 2015. Read on for the full story.
As we know, the city is divided into 14 wards, of which Queen Edith’s is one. The County Council has 69 councillors, of which 14 come from the city, so it’s very straightforward: each city ward (such as Queen Edith’s) elects and sends one councillor to the County Council. Currently ours is Amanda Taylor. The separate City Council has 42 councillors, so each of the city’s 14 wards elects and sends three councillors there. All very neat.
However, populations change, of course, and it’s necessary to redraw boundaries every few years to keep ward sizes about the same. For example, there’s massive development going on in neighbouring Trumpington through this decade. At the same time, the County Council has decided to “slim down”, and the LGBCE has suggested that it can create suitably fair new boundaries across the county if the council reduces its numbers to 61. This would mean a reduction in the number of councillors from the city from 14 to 12. While dividing the city into 12 equally-populated areas should be achievable, the astute amongst you will notice that it will be difficult to send councillors to a 42-strong city council under this arrangement. So we may end up with different city and county council ward boundaries, as happens in many other cities, or the city council may have to change to match, perhaps reducing to 36 councillors.
Here then are the sizes of the proposed new wards:
You’ll see that the proposed new wards are wildly different in size now, but are planned to be of comparable populations by 2020, which seems like a good plan. Trumpington, with all its new development, goes from an area with half of the population of some others at present, to within 10% of the average by five years’ time. However, Queen Edith’s stays at that bottom end of the scale throughout, which we’ll come on to.
As an aside, does this all matter? I believe it does. In drawing up new boundaries, the problem is that areas of the city take their identities from their council wards. It matters to many Queen Edith’s residents if they’re shuffled off to either Trumpington, Coleridge or Cherry Hinton, and the same applies to our neighbours. They feel their roads are part of a certain area. For Queen Edith’s, which doesn’t have a “village centre”, the ward boundaries are an important identifier of community. This is where a remote organisation drawing up new boundaries usually goes wrong. And with the proposals for a new-look Queen Edith’s, I think that indeed, it may be going wrong here.
Before we study the actual roads and places of interest which will be affected if the proposed new boundaries are implemented, let’s look at the changes to the general areas covered by the three “south area” wards (below). You’ll see that the LGBCE is proposing to cut off Queen Edith’s from most of its existing border to the open countryside to the south:
One of the most impressive comments made to me by any of the prospective councillors in the recent election came from Joel Chalfen, who said that Queen Edith’s needed to find an identity, and this might be as a ward which gradually transitions from the countryside to the city (unlike our neighbours, which have more abrupt changes). This reorganisation loses that, as becomes clear when we put the boundaries on the map:
Now we no longer have Queen Edith’s acting as an entranceway to the city; instead, it’s just a nondescript administrative sliver of land.
So what have we gained and lost under these proposals? In the west (below), we gain Hills Road College, the Belvedere development next door, and The Marque development opposite. However, we lose our half of Long Road; Luard Road and Sedley Taylor Road; (rather bizarrely) the west side of Hills Road; the Perse School, Long Road College and the UTC; and – most dramatically of all – the Addenbrookes’ site.
In the centre, we gain the south side of Cherry Hinton Road, St Margarets Square and Lilac Court, but we lose the Wort’s Causeway area. The Cherry Hinton Road proposal is inconsistent with what happens the other side of the Budgen’s roundabout, but it’s the Wort’s Causeway proposal which troubles me the most. What interest will a Trumpington councillor have in Wort’s Causeway – a very important area in developmental terms?
Finally, in the east, we gain the Limekiln nature reserve and chalk pit (which are obviously part of Cherry Hinton), as well as Greystoke Road. We also gain a huge area of uninhabited open land to the east.
You’ll have gathered that this is all most unsatisfactory, in my opinion. The proposals rip the entire shape out of the community for administrative convenience. Others may have different priorities to me, but mine are, in order:
1. Return the Wort’s Causeway area to Queen Edith’s;
2. Return the west side of Hills Road to Queen Edith’s;
3. Return Luard Road, Sedley Taylor Road to Queen Edith’s;
4. Return Limekiln Road and everything to the west to Cherry Hinton;
5. Bring all of the south side of Cherry Hinton Road, and the small estates off it (such as the one opposite Cherry Hinton Park), into Queen Edith’s, as they all identify with, and use, the schools in Queen Edith’s.
I’m not really happy with losing Long Road and Addenbrooke’s hospital to Trumpington, but with the main approaches to the biomedical campus turning to the west, I can see the argument.
Now, this would considerably expand Queen Edith’s, but you’ll see from the table above that Cherry Hinton is scheduled to have an electorate of over 1,000 more than Queen Edith’s, and Trumpington is about the same size. So making the changes above would probably result in Queen Edith’s being the biggest of the three, and Cherry Hinton falling back to the size currently envisaged for Queen Edith’s. Trumpington would be noticeably smaller, it’s true, but with the expansion going on there, I believe that the potential additional workload on councillors there would justify this.
I’d be very interested to hear other residents’ comments below.
The official announcement of the proposals is here, and this links to the consultation form where you can have your say. The in-depth report for the county is here. It would be great if as many residents as possible could contribute, whatever your views, if only to show the Local Government Boundary Commission that we do care.