FRA Submit Boundary Review Response

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Major changes are being proposed to the Council ward boundaries between Fetcham and Bookham.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) is undertaking a review of the electoral arrangements for Mole Valley District Council.

* The Boundary Commission wants to:

  • reduce the number of councillors from 41 at present to 39, effective from May 2023.
  • ensure that a 2027 forecast MVDC electorate of 75,731 is represented equally by its councillors, with a target of 1,942 +/-10% per councillor.
    • forecast electorate in current Fetcham West Ward is 3454
    • forecast electorate in current Fetcham East Ward is 3316

* MVDC intends that the Council continues to be elected by thirds, therefore:

  • 3 councillors per Ward
  • reducing the number of Wards from 21 to 13
  • resulting in an electorate of 5826 +/- 10% per Ward

* These objectives will require existing Ward boundaries to be redrawn.

* A cross party group of MVDC Councillors could not reach a consensus on how this could be achieved.

* Major changes are being considered to the ward boundaries between Fetcham and Bookham.

* This could result in some Fetcham residents being represented by Bookham councillors.

* It is therefore important that the Boundary Commission receives individual responses, particularly from residents living in the potentially affected areas.

  • Fetcham residents living between the existing Bookham South ward boundary and as far east as The Ridgeway.
  • Fetcham residents living between the existing Bookham North ward boundary and as far east as Ashwood Park.

* The FRA published on this website a DRAFT response on the 27th November and encouraged residents to submit their own views before the deadline of December 6th. 

* A finalised Response has been submitted by the FRA (on 6th December), setting out suggested modest boundary changes towards meeting the objectives of the review, as well as expressing great concern about any more significant changes.

Our submission, presented in full below, includes maps depicting the historical Fetcham boundaries, subsequent Council Ward boundaries and the FRA's suggested amendments to current boundaries.


Background and Issues Considered

* MVDC's Consultation Response

On the 22nd November the Mole Valley Council approved their own Stage Two - Initial Consultation Response, prepared by a Cabinet Working Group, presented in Appendix A of their report HERE

MVDC's response includes these key comments:

The Working Group considered a range of warding options and discussed how each met the LGBCE criteria and developed options to present to all members.
Whilst it was evident that a warding pattern of 13 wards, each with three members was technically possible and would meet the electoral equality criteria, there was strong agreement that it did not ‘reflect the interest or identities of local communities’ and would not encourage ‘effective and convenient local government’ due to the scale of the rural areas in three member wards ... and that there was no clear consensus on a warding pattern for the District of Mole Valley.
This consultation response therefore focuses on community identity of the District, looking to demonstrate areas where there is strong community cohesion which it would be detrimental to split and the strengths and weaknesses of different warding considerations in other areas.

Bookham and Fetcham are discssed together within the response document...

The villages of Bookham and Fetcham present their own challenges. Currently both villages consist of two wards, with Bookham having six members and Fetcham having four.
The Lower Road, which runs through both areas, provides a clear boundary between Bookham North and South.
Based on the projected number of electors for this area, electoral equality would require the total number of members to reduce from ten to nine. This suggests a new pattern of three wards, with three members each.
Two main options were considered for subdividing this area.
The first option looked to merge the existing Fetcham wards to create one three member ward and to maintain a north / south split of Bookham, with the eastern border moving down Lower Road to find an equitable electoral balance.
Whilst this was seen as the most natural evolution of the current wards, as it maintained the strong boundary (Lower Road) between Bookham North and Bookham South, it was noted that extending the Bookham wards east into Fetcham, divided part of the community within Fetcham.
To reach the minimum target ratio, Bookham South, which is currently well below, would need to extend to the Ridgeway. Concerns were raised about creating a boundary down the middle of The Ridgeway as this was very much seen by the local community as part of Fetcham, as were Church Close and the surrounding streets.
This area, together with the retail area of Fetcham, is regarded as part of the historic village of Fetcham with strong community cohesion.
It was agreed that there was greater flexibility over the Fetcham boundary with Bookham North, with properties to the north of the railway line close to Bookham Common potentially being split from historic Fetcham as the sense of community between these areas was not felt to be as evident. Areas such as the Glade, much of Kennel Lane, and possibly Ashwood Park, off the Lower Road, which naturally see themselves as part of Fetcham, might also need to sit with properties in Bookham North in order to secure electoral equality.
The second option considered also merged the two current Fetcham wards, but split Bookham creating two wards, East and West.
A Bookham West ward would largely cover the historic villages of Great and Little Bookham (collectively known as The Bookhams), whilst the Bookham East ward would include the historic Eastwick Park area which gives its name to a number of roads, a school and a GP surgery.
A Bookham East ward would bring residents transferred from Fetcham closer to the centre of their new ward, potentially giving them more local representation. It would also allow a more flexible approach to the Fetcham / Bookham boundary in order to reflect existing community ties. Some councillors advised that electors in the area of Eastwick Park, saw themselves very much as part of Bookham, not as a separate community and would not wish to see the community split.
However, there is no clear boundary between the Bookham wards comparable to the Lower Road. The most obvious roads for consideration are Church Road in the North down to Bookham High Street, or possibly East Street, which would be retained within Bookham West, and then down either Dorking Road (which would make the Bookham West ward too small) or along the A246 to Crabtree Lane (which would make the Bookham East ward too small)

Independently, the FRA considered options and possible implications of applying the target Ward size upon Fetcham.

The FRA also encouraged Fetcham Residents to register their views directly with the Boundaries Commission BY Monday the 6th December in any one of a number of ways.

* Discussion

The FRA's present position is to accept the logic of combining the existing Fetcham East and Fetcham West Wards into one Fetcham Ward; retaining the existing well defined boundaries to the north, east and south, and allowing limited further eastward movement of the westerly boundary with Bookham North to necessarily reduce the forecast electorate of a single Fetcham Ward to below the upper limit of 5826+10% (6408).

The FRA proposes to suggest to the Boundaries Commission moving our westerly boundary to align with Kennel Lane from its junction with Lower Road northwards to The Glade where the boundary then passes to the east, behind all properties along The Glade, up to the railway line and follows the line eastwards until returning directly west to Mark Oak Lane, to the north of properties along Woodside and The Glade.

We believe that this would provide for and protect the integrity of the core of the Fetcham community, whilst accepting that properties along Woodside and The Glade, north of the railway line, arguably already have a close affinity to Bookham by their proximity to Bookham Common.

What we are strongly opposed to are all suggestions that the forecast electoral imbalance between the existing North and South Bookham Wards can be 'corrected' by moving the boundary between Fetcham and South Bookham any further eastwards along either Lower Road or Guildford Road, until a point where an enlarged Bookham South Ward conveniently matches Bookham North for electoral size.

* Saving Fetcham's Heartland and Boundaries.

By the Mole Valley Cabinet Working Group's own admission, such intrusion of our west boundary into the very heart of Fetcham, with The Ridgeway being regarded as a convenient 'natural' east-west boundary line; would be problematic. We believe this must be considered as a total non-starter.

The FRA is also aware of another suggestion that a new Eastwick Ward could be created. Reducing Bookham to a single ward, an 'Eastwick' Ward would, encompass the easterly areas of Bookham North & South, taking in some fringes of Fetcham West and a large swathe of Fetcham East. Again potentially using The Ridgeway as part of its easterly boundary, and again we consider it to be a non-starter.

The FRA remains extremely concerned that tearing into the heart of the Fetcham community to simply balance the electoral books, without consideration for that community will do more to hinder than help Ward Councillors in representing what matters to their electorate.

With the minimal boundary changes the FRA is suggesting within and around the Kennel Lane, The Glade and Woodside; Fetcham Village can ...

  • retain its own identity,
  • be strengthen by being a single Ward,
  • be served by Councillors that can know and appreciate the Fetcham community in its entirety
  • avoid being progressively subsumed within Bookham and Leatherhead.

Do please register YOUR views directly with the Boundaries Commission BY Monday the 6th December in any one of a number of ways.

* Please note that in making your own submissions:

  • The Boundaries Commission will NOT consider any Political consequences, Parliamentary boundaries, House prices or insurance, Postcodes or addresses, the External boundaries of the District, or "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" arguments.
  • Effective representations WILL be those that address Electoral (numerical) equality, Community identities and Interests, and the enabling of Effective and convenient local government.

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