Boundary battlelines drawn up

BITTER political rivals have joined forces in condemning plans to turf two Suffolk communities out of the parliamentary constituency they feels is their natural home.

BITTER political rivals have joined forces in condemning plans to turf two Suffolk communities out of the parliamentary constituency they feels is their natural home.

The Boundary Commission for England wants both Great and Little Whelnetham, near Bury St Edmunds, out of the Bury constituency – which is represented by Conservative David Ruffley.

It wants the villages to become part of the West Suffolk seat, which is centred around Newmarket, Mildenhall and Brandon and is represented by fellow Tory Richard Spring.

The two communities are linked with neighbouring Horringer, part of the West Suffolk constituency, as a single ward in the borough of St Edmundsbury and the commission has proposed the changes because it dislikes the idea of wards being divided between constituencies.

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It could either have transferred the electors of Horringer to Bury or the electors of the Whelnethams to West Suffolk and opted for the latter arguing that "while the ward borders the town of Bury, the greater area of the ward is currently in the existing West Suffolk seat".

But dozens of angry villagers have joined forces with local politicians of various colours to voice their concerns at the "ludicrous" proposals and the commission will this summer hold a public inquiry into the plans – in Ipswich.

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Nicholas Corke, of Great Whelnetham, said: "It's psychological more than anything but going over to West Suffolk would make us feel divorced from Bury. I think David Ruffley represents Bury very well and I would prefer to continue with him as my MP."

Steven Hagger and his wife Doreen, from Little Whelnetham, are also opposing the plans. Mr Hagger, who said he could see Bury from his home, stressed: "I think it's a ludicrous idea. We're only two or three miles from Bury, we spend a lot of time there and we shop there – what on earth have we got in common with Newmarket?"

Mr Ruffley denied he was concerned at losing the Whelnethams from his marginal constituency because of the number of Conservative voters among the 774 electors there.

However, he said: "I'm very pleased my constituents have said they want to stay with me and I'm equally pleased that a number of people from Horringer are saying they want to come under the Bury seat."

Ray Nowak, a Labour member of the county council and leader of St Edmundsbury, condemned the entire system for local, county and parliamentary wards, which he said had become a "bit of a nonsense".

Mr Nowak called for a more holistic approach: "We need to take account of local communities, which at the moment may have different district, county and parliamentary boundaries. At the moment they just don't seem to talk to each other.

"That's why St Edmundsbury has three MPs – Richard Spring, David Ruffley and Tim Yeo (South Suffolk). It would be much more logical to bring parliamentary boundaries in line with district boundaries – Suffolk has seven districts and seven MPs but the boundaries just don't tie up."

Stefan Oliver, Conservative member of Suffolk County Council for Bury's Southgate and Westgate wards, said if the Whelnethams wanted to stay then their views should be respected by the boundary commission.

"I was asked for my support and I have given it. If they want to stay in Bury and are quite happy being part of it then they should be able to. They are close to Bury and the West Suffolk constituency starts much further round the other side of the town."

Richard Spring was not available for comment yesterday.

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