As neighbouring rural counties, they enjoy a friendly rivalry that goes back centuries.

But now, for the first time in their history, communities in Norfolk and Suffolk will be sharing an MP after this year's general election.

A realignment of constituency boundaries has created the counties' first cross-border parliamentary seat of Waveney Valley.

It lumps together Suffolk towns like Bungay with Norfolk's Diss and Harleston, as well as many villages on both sides of the county line.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Waveney Valley looking upstream towards Scole and Diss, by Mike PageThe Waveney Valley looking upstream towards Scole and Diss, by Mike Page (Image: Mike Page)

So as election day looms, what do voters on either side of the border think of being merged with their neighbours?


While some are concerned about being lumped in with their cross-border rivals there have been concerns about the practicalities of the new seat.

Critics have questioned how a cross-border MP will represent constituents who are served by different councils and fire services and where the law is enforced by different police forces with two crime commissioners.

The work of a parliamentarian involves liaison with all these organisations, so whoever wins the seat may face a particularly heavy workload, having to engage with twice the number of local officials as neighbouring MPs.

The Waveney has been hit by flooding over the winter. Will having the same MP representing both banks of the river help or hinder the local response next time around? Or will it simply further muddy the waters, as the same individual will have to deal with different agencies in both counties?

East Anglian Daily Times: Waveney Valley at Earsham, captured by Andrew AtterwillWaveney Valley at Earsham, captured by Andrew Atterwill (Image: Andrew Atterwill)And if it ever comes to them having to fight for government funding - as it so often does - will they favour a project north or south of the border?

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The majority of the new constituency is in Suffolk and the greatest unease at the change appears to be among those in Norfolk.


Certainly, not everyone is happy with the new seat, which has seen old divisions resurface and caused some to see their traditional identities weakened.

Kevin O’Beirne, 67, lives in the Norfolk village of Earsham.

"As a Norfolk resident, I am not happy to be lumped in with Suffolk," he said.

"I like being part of south Norfolk and do not see any benefit of being in the Waveney constituency.

"I lived in Bungay for five years but moved here to get out of Suffolk - to leave the dark side."

East Anglian Daily Times: The new Waveney Valley constituency boundaryThe new Waveney Valley constituency boundary (Image: Boundary Commisson)


A Ditchingham villager, who asked not to be named, raised concerns over the logistics of how the cross-county seat would work.

He worried that policing in his area might suffer because the majority of his MP's constituency would be in Suffolk, so he or she may have less focus on raising the crime concerns of Norfolk voters with their force.

"With Ditchingham being in Norfolk, I cannot help but fear that the area will not be policed as well," he said.

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"I hope we are not overlooked by the new changes and our MP will help secure money and support for Norfolk as much as Suffolk.

"As a Norfolk man, I was very happy being in a Norfolk seat so the change has frustrated me as I don't see it benefitting our village."

East Anglian Daily Times: Falcon Meadow bathed in the early morning mist and sun with the River Waveney marking the Norfolk and Suffolk border between Bungay and DitchinghamFalcon Meadow bathed in the early morning mist and sun with the River Waveney marking the Norfolk and Suffolk border between Bungay and Ditchingham (Image: Andrew Atterwill)


But others are far more relaxed. For many, there is already a strong feeling of cross-border community, with south Norfolk villages enjoying close ties with places like Beccles and Bungay.

Ian Barber, also from Earsham, added: "The Cowboys and Indians around here get along.

"I don't think the new constituency will make much difference. I don't mind joining with Suffolk.

"Living on the border here, we get along fine. The feud in this neck of the woods isn't that strong."

East Anglian Daily Times: Jake Feasey of the Bungay Green DragonJake Feasey of the Bungay Green Dragon (Image: Bruno Brown)

Jake Feasey who works in the Green Dragon pub, in Bungay, said there was a cross-border rivalry but that it was mostly in jest.

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“There may be a conflict between Norfolk and Suffolk which dates back years. People of Norfolk might speak ill of Suffolk, but they still seem happy to put differences aside."


But while the towns of Bungay, Harleston and Diss are all strung out in a line on or near the river Waveney - which forms the county border and gives the new constituency its name - the new seat also includes Halesworth, which sits deep in Suffolk, ten miles from Norfolk.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mick Holmes, known locally in Halesworth as the Parrot Man, with his parrots, Mia a blue and gold Macaw, and Basil, a yellow crowned AmazonMick Holmes, known locally in Halesworth as the Parrot Man, with his parrots, Mia a blue and gold Macaw, and Basil, a yellow crowned Amazon (Image: Denise Bradley)

Mick Holmes, who lives in the town, said: “Earsham and Ditchingham, although they are in Norfolk, basically form Bungay, which is Suffolk.

"They are just separated by the river Waveney so as they sit on the border it makes sense they are part of the Waveney constituency."

Mr Holmes - known as 'parrot man' in Halesworth as he often walks Mia a blue and gold Macaw, and Basil, a yellow-crowned Amazon with his dog Tilly through the town - said that people in his area, which sits on the river Blyth, might still identify with their new Waveney Valley but may struggle to connect with places further afield.

“North Suffolk towns, like Halesworth, Bungay and Beccles, are all connected, so share an identity with Norfolk. But the further towards Eye we go, we don’t know anyone there or anything about the place.

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"It seems ridiculous that people of Beccles, Halesworth and Bungay are being lumped in with towns we don't go to. How will an MP serve such different areas?"


Graham Ellis, who lives in Bungay, shared these concerns.

He used to live in Halesworth and recalls that it was once part of the Suffolk-only Waveney seat before the town was moved to be part of Suffolk Coastal in 1997.

East Anglian Daily Times: Bungay town centre captured from the air by Mike PageBungay town centre captured from the air by Mike Page (Image: Mike Page)

He said the core of the new cross-border constituency did cover a recognisable geographical area, the Waveney Valley, with an identity people connected with.

But he worried this might be diluted because the area also included other communities, deeper into Suffolk, which people had less affinity with.

"Halesworth once was part of the Waveney seat and as a former resident of the town I think it makes sense to add Halesworth back to the constituency.

"Halesworth, Beccles and Bungay are all rather similar and largely everyone has some affiliation with people in these neighbouring towns.

“But people who live in the true Waveney Valley won’t ever visit Haughley and places near Stowmarket. Places that far away are quite alien territory to most here."

East Anglian Daily Times: Waveney MP Peter AldousWaveney MP Peter Aldous (Image: UK Parliament)


Much of the new constituency is formed from the former Waveney seat, which elected Tory Peter Aldous in 2019.

The realignment of the boundaries means that the largest town in that area, Lowestoft, will now have its own MP after the next election and Beccleds will join the Lowestoft seat.

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In addition to parts of the former Waveney seat (like Bungay) Waveney Valley has been formed from parts of four other constituencies: South Norfolk (including Diss and Harleston); Suffolk Coastal (including Halesworth); Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (including Eye); and Bury St Edmunds (some rural areas of north Suffolk).

Electoral Calculus, a political forecasting website, characterises the new seat as 'Strong Right', with right wing economic and social views, high homeownership levels and strong support for Brexit.

Despite this, it is a target seat for the Green Party, which enjoyed successes in the area in the 2023 local elections.

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The party has announced Adrian Ramsay, its co-leader and a former Norwich city councillor, as its candidate.

Richard Rout, a senior Suffolk county councillor, will stand for the Conservatives.

Other parties are yet to announce their candidates.