PLANS to move Longridge and district OUT of the Ribble Valley and into a new constituency centred on Lancaster have been attacked by the area’s Conservative leaders, including MP Nigel Evans.
The proposal, which would also see Ribchester and Chipping joining an enlarged Lancaster parliamentary seat, is part of a shake-up in Westminster seats aimed at cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600.
If the proposals, published yesterday, are accepted it would result in 9,000 voters in Alston/Hothersall, Derby/Thornley, Dilworth, Chipping and Ribchester wards, being transferred to the Lancaster-centred seat for parliamentary elections.
The Lancaster seat would also include 9,000 voters from Preston’s Rural East and Rural North wards which are currently part of the Wyre and Preston North seat, which will disappear under the changes.
The Fishwick ward of Preston City Council, which has 3,500 voters, would be included in the Ribble Valley seat.
The moves affecting Longridge would mean the end of a decades-long parliamentary link between the town and its rural Ribble Valley neighbours.
The Ribble Valley seat would see a shift ‘eastward’ with several wards in the Pendle area (Coates, Craven and Earby) being included in the new-look constituency.
Dilworth ward Coun Ken Hind, senior vice-chairman of Ribble Valley Tories said: “We will be recommending to Ribble Valley Conservative Association members that we campaign for Ribchester, Longridge and Chipping to stay with Ribble Valley.
“There is strong community of interest in the rural area and no common interest with Lancaster.”
The Tories are now to start a “Keep Longridge, Ribchester and Chipping in the Ribble Valley’’ campaign, contacting parish and town councils and inviting their support, and asking the public to write to the Boundary Commission.
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Nigel Evans MP – who would almost certainly stay in the Ribble Valley seat and would therefore no longer represent Longridge, Chipping or Ribchester under the proposals – said he wanted to see changes made to the recommendations.
Mr Evans said: “Liaison with local authorities is an important part of an MP’s work. To unnecessarily have a constituency which covers four local authority areas does not make sense.”
In terms of political impact, it is likely that the re-shaped Ribble Valley seat would be more politically volatile than at present.
The new Lancaster constituency, which would include the Lancaster itself, Garstang, rural Wyre as well as Longridge, Chipping, Ribchester and the rural Preston wards would also be likely to become less politically secure than the current Lancaster and Fleetwood seat, which will disappear.
Lancaster city has traditionally had a strong Labour vote, and has in recent times returned Labour MPs including Stan Henig and Hilton Dawson.
The current Lancaster and Fleetwood seat is represented by a Conservative, Eric Ollerenshaw.
While it is almost certain that Nigel Evans would retain the Tory ticket for Ribble Valley at the next general election, the Conservative nomination in the new Lancaster seat is less certain. Both Mr Ollerenshaw and the current Conservative Wyre and Preston North MP, Ben Wallace, could apply.
Both would have the right ‘qualifications’, Mr Ollerenshaw as the MP for the current seat and Mr Wallace who has previously represented Lancaster under the old boundaries.
The proposed boundary changes to the Ribble Valley constituency are outlined in full at a display in the Ribble Valley Council Offices, Clitheroe, until Monday, December 5.
The display includes information on how residents can make their views known. The review must be completed by autumn 2013 and the changes will come into effect at the next general election.
There will be public hearings in the North West, including a two day hearing at the Tickled Trout, Preston, October 24 and 25, at which Tories will put their case.
* For a full list of wards in each of the proposed new constituencies, see the story on our website: www.longridgenews.co.uk
* What do you think of the proposed changes? Should Longridge, Ribchester and Chipping stay in the Ribble Valley, or do you think there is good sense in joining with Lancaster? Write to us with your views at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Comment, page 6
The proposed new Ribble Valley seat (Total 73,653 voters)
Coates Pendle 4,165 voters, Craven Pendle 4,246, Earby Pendle 4,813, Fishwick Preston 3,530, Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley Ribble Valley 1,166, Billington and Old Langho Ribble Valley 2,374, Bowland, Newton and Slaidburn Ribble Valley 1,074, Chatburn Ribble Valley 1,113, Clayton-le-Dale with Ramsgreave Ribble Valley 2,127, Edisford and Low Moor Ribble Valley 2,269, Gisburn, Rimington Ribble Valley 1,135, Langho Ribble Valley 1,924, Littlemoor Ribble Valley 2,398, Mellor Ribble Valley 2,242, Primrose Ribble Valley 2,442, Read and Simonstone Ribble Valley 2,134, Sabden Ribble Valley 1,110, St Mary’s Ribble Valley 2,328, Salthill Ribble Valley 2,526, Waddington and West Bradford Ribble Valley 2,558, Whalley Ribble Valley 2,927, Wilpshire Ribble Valley 2,113, Wiswell and Pendleton Ribble Valley 1,098, Bamber Bridge East South Ribble 3,678, Bamber Bridge North South Ribble 3,609, Bamber Bridge West South Ribble 3,429, Coupe Green and Gregson Lane South Ribble 2,869, Samlesbury and Walton South Ribble 3,251.
Walton-le-Dale South Ribble 3,005.
The proposed new Lancaster seat (Total 79,694 voters):
Bulk Lancaster 4,993 voters, Castle Lancaster 5,394; Duke’s Lancaster 2,286, Ellel Lancaster 5,249, John O’Gaunt Lancaster 5,808, Scotforth East Lancaster 3,471, Scotforth West Lancaster 5,196, University Lancaster 3,842, Preston Rural East Preston 3,658, Preston Rural North Preston 5,417, Alston and Hothersall Ribble Valley 2,092, Chipping Ribble Valley 1,109, Derby and Thornley Ribble Valley 2,463,
Dilworth Ribble Valley 1,998, Ribchester Ribble Valley 1,338, Brock Wyre 1,934, Cabus Wyre 1,316, Calder Wyre 1,672, Catterall Wyre 2,033, Garstang Wyre 4,012, Great Eccleston Wyre 2,903, Hambleton and Stalmine-with-Staynall Wyre 3,460, Pilling Wyre 1,766, Preesall Wyre 4,666,Wyresdale Wyre 1,618.