PLANS to revamp boundaries in Cumbria are a threat to the identity of communities, according to key political figures.
The Boundary Commission for England has proposed radical changes for its 2013 review, slashing the number of constituencies from 533 to 502 nationally and removing one county MP.
The stated aim is to ensure each area has a similar number of electors – around 75,000.
But many Cumbrians believe the proposals, which are now out for public consultation, do not take into account the geography of their county and say it would divide communities.
If approved, the most drastic change would be to the Penrith and the Border and Westmorland and Lonsdale constituencies, represented by Rory Stewart
and Tim Farron respectively.
Towns such as Kendal and Sedbergh would be tied to remote areas of Eden in the new Kendal and Penrith constituency, and the likes of Grange-over-Sands (currently part of the Westmorland
constituency) would be part of the Barrow-in-Furness MP’s area.
And with six MPs set to become five, it could lead to an election battle between Conservative Mr Stewart and Liberal Democrat Mr Farron at the next election for the Kendal and Penrith area.
Mr Stewart said: “Penrith and the Border is the most sparsely populated area in the country. Parts of it would be tied to Carlisle, Workington and Kendal.
Those remote areas have issues around isolation, distances and schools that are central to the job of the MP representing them.
“For an MP representing Carlisle and Workington, and to a lesser extent Kendal, it would be very difficult to concentrate on the interests of the isolated areas.”
Mr Farron said: “It is a very poorly thought-out set of proposals for Cumbria.
"The new maps separate Staveley from Burneside, and Lindale from Grange and Levens.”
A proposed new Copeland and Windermere constituency would include west coast areas like Whitehaven, Distington, St Bees, Egremont and Bootle, with honeypot Lake District areas like Windermere,
Bowness, Ambleside, Grasmere, Coniston and Hawkshead.
Mr Farron added: “I think most people in Windermere and Kendal would think it bonkers that they are separated from each other, but it is up to those people to say that and respond to the
Hawkshead resident Vivian Griffiths would move from Mr Farron’s constituency to the new Copeland and Windermere area.
He said: “The plans have no sense of community. After having Westmorland county taken away South Lakeland has recovered and found itself as a new community, and now that is going to be ripped apart
Leslie Johnson, chairman of Lakes Parish Council, said: “I wouldn’t have thought people in Ambleside would identify with people in Copeland because it is ‘over the hill’ as it were.
“It is a great principle to trying to equalise the electorate and balance out the numbers, but the powers that be have drawn lines on maps and forgotten there are rivers and hills in between.”
The proposals would see Broughton and much of the Duddon valley move from Barrow and Furness into the Copeland and Windermere ward while Spark Bridge and Lowick would transfer to Kendal and
Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock said: "It is now up to local people to say whether they think the new boundaries make sense.
“It would be a great privilege to represent Grange-over-Sands, Cartmel and the beautiful surrounding area, but I am sad at the prospect that the Barrow and Furness constituency would no longer
include much of the Duddon and Crake valleys.”
The only change to the Morecambe and Lunesdale would be the addition of the Lower Lune valley.
Electors are being urged to take part in the consultation, and can do so by visiting the website consultation.boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk.
The result of the consultation will be published on the website in spring 2012.
Final recommendations are made by the Boundary Commission on October 1, 2013.
KENDAL AND PENRITH
THIS would be a large geographical area, including large portions of the current Westmorland and Lonsdale and Penrith and the Borders constituencies.
The southern part of the constituency would include Arnside and Beetham, Burton and Holme, Levens, Crooklands, Sedbergh and Kirkby Lonsdale, Kendal and Burneside.
The constituency would stretch as far north as Kirkoswald and Alston Moor and would also include Orton with Tebay, Kirkby Stephen, Shap, Appleby, Ravenstonedale, Warcop, Crosby Ravensworth, Brough
and Penrith. Ullswater, currently in Eden, would become part of a proposed Workington and Keswick constituency.
The number of electors would be 79,685.
COPELAND AND WINDERMERE
THE new Copeland and Windermere constituency would represent one of the most extreme changes in Cumbria.
With the historic area of Westmorland and Lonsdale being splintered up under the proposals, South Lakeland’s honeypot areas such as Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside, Hawkshead and Coniston would have
the same MP as West Cumbrian coastal wards like Whitehaven, Harrington, Distington, Boothe and Millom.
Also in this constituency would be the Lyth Valley and Staveley-in-Cartmel, currently in Westmorland and Lonsdale.
Broughton-in-Furness would also be included, moving from its current place within Barrow and Furness.
The number of electors would be 77,712.
THE biggest change for the Furness area would be the incorporation of Grange-over-Sands into a new and bigger constituency.
The new Barrow-in-Furness constituency, replacing Barrow and Furness which was only introduced at last year’s election, would also gain areas such as Cartmel, Allithwaite, Flookburgh, Holker,
Ravenstown and Humphrey Head Point, currently in Westmorland and Lonsdale.
But it would lose the Duddon Valley, including towns such as Broughton-in-Furness, Kirkby-in-Furness and the Crake Valley to a new Copeland and Windermere constituency.
The number of electors would be 73,677.