Boundary change ‘at odds’ with local links, says MP

LIBERAL Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith has made a submission about his concerns on the proposed changes to his constituency boundary.

Speaking at a public meeting held by the Boundary Commission in Newcastle at the beginning of the week, Sir Alan said his criticism of the commission’s plans to move Rothbury into Hexham’s constituency and Ponteland East into the Berwick area, are widely shared.

He said: “The plan to link Berwick, Alnwick and Morpeth in a new constituency proposed by the Commission makes a lot of sense, but the plan to put the Rothbury area over into the Hexham constituency is completely at odds with local community links, as is the plan to split Ponteland in two and give part of it to the Berwick constituency.

“These criticisms, which are very widely shared, can easily be met by leaving Rothbury with Berwick and Morpeth, and leaving all of Ponteland in Hexham – it makes almost no difference at all to the figures.

“A similar swap would be possible on the coast, where it would make sense not to split up the town of Ashington, but instead to put Newbiggin by the Sea into the Berwick and Morpeth constituency, keeping its well-established links with Lynemouth.

“Basically the Commission has taken the right approach by recognising the strong links between Berwick, Alnwick and Morpeth, three market towns joined by the A1, the rail line and regular bus services, but they have ignored the realities of the Rothbury, Whittingham and Glanton area, whose school and public transport links are with Morpeth and Alnwick, not with Hexham. To get from Glanton or Rothbury to Hexham by public transport takes three buses.

“And it makes no sense to split communities like Ponteland and Ashington between two constituencies. Straightforward changes should be made to improve the plans and relate them more closely to community links.”