BORDER BATTLE - ‘Hands off Clay Country’, warn campaigners in electoral dispute
Cllr Peter Guest. Photo Paul Williams
7th July 2021
By Natasha Swift
A battle is under way to stop communities in Clay Country from being “torn apart” under plans to shake up England’s electoral map.
Residents living in Roche and Bugle could be moved to a new Parliamentary constituency which includes Liskeard, Callington and Saltash as part of the redrawing of MPs’ constituencies.
The proposal, revealed by the Boundary Commission for England (BCE), would see the two villages moved from the St Austell and Newquay division into South East Cornwall.
The plans have been blasted as not only a breach of “the integrity of the China Clay area” but also a potential split of two parishes St Stephen in-Brannel and Treverbyn between different constituencies.
Clay Country Cornwall councillors are fighting against the changes put for- ward by the BCE.
Cornwall councillor for Roche and Bugle, Peter Guest, along with councillor for St Dennis and St Enoder, Dick Cole, Penwithick and Bo- scoppa’s Matthew Luke and the councillor for the St Stephen in Brannel parish, Mike McLening, have written to the Boundary Commission for England outlining their objections.
Cllr Guest told the Voice: “Although I understand the reasoning behind the Bound- ary Commission’s proposals to change the borders in order to equalise the number of voters in each constituency, I was disappointed to read that one proposal is to move the Roche and Bugle division into the South East Cornwall constituency.
“Roche and Bugle share a proud heritage as part of the Clay Country network and I feel that we can work most effectively on behalf of the area if that network is maintained. “Along with three fellow county councillors, I have made representations to keep the Clay Country area in the same constituency and we have suggested alternative solutions to their proposals.”
The group said: “As the four Cornwall councillors representing the China Clay area in the heart of Cornwall, we are disappointed that the initial proposals for new parliamentary seats do not respect the integrity of our unique district and splits it between two constituencies.
“There is a massive ‘community of interest’ between the five parishes and the many village communities of the China Clay area, which is grounded in a shared history. “We would formally request that the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) keeps the whole of the China Clay area together within a modified St Austell and Newquay seat.”
They have the asked the BCE to consider that Cornwall’s China Clay area comprises five parishes – Roche, St Dennis, St Enoder, St Stephen-in-Brannel and Tre- verbyn, and the four Cornwall Council divisions for the China Clay area, Roche and Bugle, Penwithick and Boscoppa, St Dennis and St Enoder, and St Stephen.
The initial proposal places three of these divisions within the proposed St Austell and Newquay Constituency Penwithick and Boscoppa, St Dennis and St Enoder, and St Stephen, but the fourth division Roche and Bugle would be within the proposed South East Cornwall constituency.
The group says: “A key priority for the parishes of the China Clay area and its public representatives is to develop and implement a regeneration strategy for the area through we which we hope to boost opportunities in our locality, improve economic performance while seeking to tackle the significant deprivation in our local communities.
“It is our view that the sub- division of the China Clay area as proposed by the BCE would send the wrong message to residents and suggest that the regeneration of this part of mid Cornwall is not as important as the regeneration of urban areas.
“The China Clay area was historically known as the Hensbarrow Mining District and the section of surviving moorland which includes the Hensbarrow Beacon the highest natural point in the locality would be split between the two proposed constituencies.
“Indeed, the beacon itself, a large prehistoric barrow, which marks the parish boundary between Roche and Treverbyn parishes, would even be split between the two proposed constituencies.
“In addition, the proposed St Austell and Newquay and South East Cornwall seats would divide the “winning and working” (extraction) area for the clay industry, cut- ting through historic individual clay workings.”
St Austell Town Council is also objecting.
Councillors have suggested that instead, Fowey and Tywardreath move into the South East Cornwall constituency or St Columb, St Mawgan and St Wenn go into the North Cornwall constituency.
The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) published its initial proposals for new constituency boundaries last month as part of an eight- week consultation.
The number of constituencies in England will increase from 533 to 543 and the Commission will present final recommendations to Parliament by July 2023.
Members of the public can have their say until August 2. There will be two further rounds of consultation in 2022. Plans for a controversial ‘Devonwall’ constituency spanning the River Tamar have been dropped. The revised boundaries will keep six parliamentary constituencies
wholly within Cornwall.