Boundary Review – Information Pack
Respond in July via this link: www.bcereviews.org.uk/node/add/informed-representation/6488
The Boundary Commission is the independent body responsible for reviewing Parliamentary constituency boundaries in England. The Commission has made proposals to reorganise parliamentary constituencies so that each MP represents a roughly similar number of voters.
The initial proposals are available at: www.bcereviews.org.uk
Summary of proposals:
- Wealden constituency loses Uckfield and Forest Row, but gains Heathfield – Overall Positive.
- Wealden constituency to be renamed “Hailsham and Crowborough” – Opportunity to rename.
- The current proposals split Hartfield from Withyham and remove it from the constituency – As the smallest seat we can fix that and regain Hartfield.
The public can contact the Boundary Commission and welcome the changes, which seem to be a balanced and carefully thought out overall. But your help is needed in the quest to secure the name Sussex Weald (see reasons below) and ensure the historical, social and economic links to Hartfield are retained.
There’s no political advantage when it comes round to election time – we’re only talking about a change involving 800 households. In the context of trimming down a constituency by around fourteen thousand votes these are not meaningful numbers.
Key objections to the proposal:
- Hartfield ward to be included in Hailsham and Crowborough seat
- Sussex Weald to be chosen as name for Hailsham and Crowborough seat
Under the proposals, Wealden constituency will go from being one of the largest to one of the smallest in seats in the area. Retaining the village of Hartfield in Wealden will balance out both new constituencies, whilst creating less change for the local community.
“East Grinstead & Uckfield” and “Hailsham & Crowborough” constituencies in numbers
- Hartfield and Withyham are one and the same community and should be treated as such by the Commission to ensure future parliamentary representation is maintained in one constituency, by one Member of Parliament.
- The village of Hartfield is entwined with the Parish of Withyham, dating back several hundred years and the communities are indistinguishable in many ways.
Key asks from the community and local authorities:
- Write to the Boundary Commission and make representations expressing own views and experiences proving that Hartfield ought to remain in the same constituency as Withyham.
- Please feel free to choose a combination of any of the suggested bullet points below to support your claim and add any further personal reasons that will support keeping Hartfield with Withyham.
All appeals to be made by 2 August 2021 via this website link:www.bcereviews.org.uk/node/add/informed-representation/6488
Suggested points to include in your representation
- The suggested proposals are balanced and carefully thought-out
- The proposals for the eastern and southern border of the constituency, including Heathfield are logical and welcomed, as they unite the existing district wards that are currently split between two constituencies and merging Mayfield and Five Ashes, Horam and Punnets Town into one constituency
- Local residents are encouraged to include favourable comments regarding this, but ask for Hartfield to be returned
Summary of objectives and supporting evidence
Objective 1: Secure the return of Hartfield to the proposed “Hailsham and Crowborough” seat in order not to sever links with the neighbouring Withyham village
Objection 1 - Local ties and community services are broken from existing constituency
- There is one GP practice in Hartfield which covers the two villages (Hartfield and Withyham), which is closely linked to the Saxonbury House Surgery in Crowborough, which is a key local vaccination hub and the nearest medical centre to both villages, to get their Covid-19 vaccine.
- Existing Primary education provision covers the needs across both villages.
- There is only one community shop, located in Hartfield, serving both communities.
- Hartfield and Withyham share the postal code.
- Hartfield and Withyham church choirs and volunteers live across both villages. All local groups draw their membership from the two communities without formal distinction.
- The places where people eat, study, pray and attend social activities is what forms the fabric of a community, and it would be a terrible shame indeed if the two villages were split.
Objection 2 – Breaking links with local representation and Wealden District Council
- Wealden District Council is the current communal local Government unit across the two villages and this ought to be retained.
- A large part of Withyham Parish lies within Hartfield District Authority Ward. The Commission uses the district authority wards for its purposes, but much of the Withyham Parish boundary lies within the Hartfield District Authority ward.
- Local Parish Councillors work as a team across Hartfield and Withyham and local plans for support and growth encompass both villages as one unit.
- One Member of Parliament currently represents Hartfield and Withyham as well as Crowborough and Hailsham. This continuity ought to be remained as splitting the two villages between two constituencies and across two Members of Parliament would only result in unnecessary difficulties and confusion over representations.
Objection 3 – Breaking away Crowborough as the link town for Hartfield residents for social activities, hospitality services, shopping and health services
- Hartfield already faces towards Crowborough for amenities, and this was highlighted during Covid when vaccinations were delivered at Crowborough.
- Hartfield and Withyham are both in close proximity to Crowborough, and many residents use Crowborough’s shops, businesses, rail network links and other facilities as primary services, as opposed to those available in Uckfield, or further afield.
- The removal of Hartfield results in Crowborough losing the Horder Centre (Health Clinic) from Crowborough and Hailsham seat.
- The community bus service, ’Wealdlink’, is set up to take elderly residents from Hartfield, Withyham, Blackham and Groombridge to Crowborough for their errands. This demonstrates the close ties Hartfield and Withyham possess, and that Crowborough is the natural town most linked to these rural villages.
Objection 4 – Undermining Social, Health and Transport links
- The only children’s facilities, outdoor sports facilities or sports grounds in the area are in located in Hartfield. Withyham have none and are making a great use of the Hartfield facilities. For purposes of representation, maintenance and securing of funding, it would make sense to keep Hartfield and Withyham under one constituency and one authority.
Objection 5 – Threats to financial viability of the Ashdown Forest and Splitting up the Home of Winnie the Pooh
- Withyham and Hartfield are emotionally and financially interlinked through shared heritage of the iconic Ashdown Forest, Winnie the Pooh, and tourism.
- Hartfield is the home of the first POOH-SEUM and the Pooh Tea Room, which are dedicated to the legacy of A.A. Milne and bring hundreds of thousands of visitors from the UK and across the world, boosting the local economy.
- Hartfield and Withyham are the economic hubs of the Ashdown Forest. The local economies are entwined, and businesses work in partnership to keep the villages vibrant.
- Securing funding is not always a straightforward matter per se, and it would be further complicated by involving a new authority. It is important for the future of the Forest and the community to keep the two villages together under one Parish Council, one District Council and one Member of Parliament.
- Historically, Withyham Parish Council has provided financial support to Hartfield village and funds for the upkeep of the Ashdown Forest. By moving Hartfield into the “East Grinstead and Uckfield” constituency, the Withyham Parish Council is split.
- Funds for the Ashdown Forest have also been obtained from the Waitrose Community Matters Scheme in Crowborough, further proving the links to Ashdown Forest and the Crowborough area.
- The current MP, Nusrat Ghani has worked tirelessly to support the Forest, its Conservators and its Rangers and personally secured much-needed funding year on year to keep the Forest/Conservators going. We are acutely aware of the cultural links that exist across the two communities with regards to the Forest and fear that the representative of the newly formed constituency may not be as invested into preserving these links and ensuring they thrive for generations to come.
Objection 7 – Ignoring deep historical ties of ancient communities across Hartfield and Withyham
- There are strong historical farming and cultural links across both Hartfield and Withyham reaching across Ashdown Forest and the wider area within the Sussex Weald.
- There are also rich historical links between the two communities and estates that span over the boundaries of Hartfield and Withyham, and link to Crowborough. As these estates are big local employers, farm across Hartfield, Withyham and Crowborough, it is vital that they remain under one local authority and one parliamentary representation.
- Buckhurst estate
- Penns in the Rocks estate
Objective 2: Secure the name of “Sussex Weald” for the proposed “Hailsham and Crowborough” seat
Objection 1 - Focus is currently on two towns rather than the spirit of Wealden
- While the proposed name of “Hailsham and Crowborough” identifies the two of the three larger towns in the constituency, it falls short in capturing the spirit and character of Wealden.
- An alternative name: “Sussex Weald” would be better suited as it encompasses Hailsham, Crowborough, the newly-added Heathfield, a number of rural villages and the Ashdown Forest. Not only would this change to the name retain the character of the current constituency, but by incorporating the term “Weald” - the origins of which date back to Anglo-Saxon times - it would also act as a distinct identifier as to the location of the “Sussex’ Weald”.
- For other Members of Parliament across the country and the general public, the location of the towns is not as well known, but “Sussex Weald” would easily put the seat on the map.
- The Boundary Commission has already named a nearby constituency as “Weald of Kent” and changing “Hailsham and Crowborough” to “Sussex’ Weald” will balance out the High Weald area and recognise the Sussex part of the Weald.
- The proposed constituency is also the only one that would be wholly made up of Wealden District Council, which further supports the claim for retaining the use of the name “Weald” in the title of the seat.
- Additionally, there are many local uses of the terms “Weald” and “Wealden”, ranging from local farms, businesses, charities, magazines and many more services in between. Retaining this for the purposes of identifying the constituency would be a great source of pride for many that feel connected to name alike.
- The area of Wealden, including the Ashdown Forest, is distinct and often recognised worldwide as ‘Winnie-the-Pooh country’, incorporating a character that local people value. To identify the proposed constituency merely by the name of the two largest towns, would lose this character and much-loved identity.
- Wealden has a proud and rich heritage and the proposed constituency should continue to reflect this in the name to ensure some continuity and for the sake of community interest - by capturing a character and heritage that the locals are very proud of, and deserve to be known as such, when being represented in Parliament.
- A constituency of “Sussex Weald” that also included the District Authority Ward of Hartfield would be naturally compatible, in keeping with local community and historical ties. It would ensure that key community links are upheld, and parliamentary representation is given to the community as a whole, while retaining the historical and current character of the area, epitomised by the name “Sussex Weald”.