PEOPLE living in villages to the east of the town could be moved to a new parliamentary constituency under plans for a shake-up of England’s electoral map.

The proposal was revealed by the Boundary Commission for England yesterday. If it comes to fruition then Wanborough, Wroughton and Wichelstowe and the surrounding villages – all inside the borough of Swindon – would be moved to East Wiltshire.

Those areas would be detached from the current South Swindon constituency – held by Conservative cabinet minister Robert Buckland – and combined with Marlborough and a huge swathe of the east of the county, as far south as Amesbury.

What South Swindon loses to the south it would gain to the north. Justin Tomlinson’s North Swindon constituency is too big, with its population of 79,500 significantly higher than the England average of 72,000. It would give up the half of Mannington and Western ward and the 80 per cent of Covingham and Dorcan it currently holds to South Swindon.

But the potential loss of the two large southern wards – a mix of villages, new development and countryside – has had a mixed response.

Mr Buckland suggested it had only an even chance of being approved and put into action.

He said: “This is the first stage in a long process and as the Boundary Commission spokesperson said this morning, about 50 per cent of their initial proposals are revised by its end.”

Swindon Advertiser:

Ridgeway ward councillor and deputy borough leader Gary Sumner was not thrilled by the proposal, which would see not only Wanborough but a significant chunk of the New Eastern Villages expansion in the new constituency.

He said: “Considering that much of Swindon’s urban expansion is in my ward it would seem illogical to be represented by an MP for a largely rural constituency covering villages in East Wiltshire.

Swindon Advertiser:

“Similarly for Wroughton and middle and west Wichelstowe. I will be responding to ask that our representation doesn’t change and to look at other ways of evening out the numbers within Swindon. Whenever residents contact our MP it’s very often on issues local to Swindon and it’s important that the MP understands those local issues.”

The loss of two solidly Conservative wards to be replaced by one Tory and a traditional Labour voting ward could possibly make South Swindon slightly more or a battleground ward at the next general election.

Sarah Church fought the constituency at the 2017 and 2019 elections, falling a few thousand votes short at each one.

She said: “Political shifts are occurring up and down the country so politicians and political parties need to keep working hard to listen to all potential future constituents and never take any areas for granted.”

Swindon Advertiser:

The changes in North Swindon seem much less controversial.

Mr Tomlinson said: “This wasn’t unexpected at all. We know North Swindon is too big, and we knew the commission would take parts form the south, otherwise it would start crossing boundaries into Gloucestershire.

“Once the commission started making changes in Swindon, then it has effects further south in Wiltshire.”

Councillors and residents in the wards to be moved into South Swindon are unfazed.

Covingham and Dorcan councillor Dale Heenan said: “I can’t see anyone being that bothered by this change. Residents live in Covingham and Nythe, and a line being moved on a map to change who their MP is doesn’t change that in any way.

“The Conservatives work as one team for Swindon so there is no artificial North Swindon/South Swindon divide.

“I regularly talk with Robert Buckland and we have a good working relationship. I look forward to Robert joining me, Kevin Parry and Barbara Parry on the doors talking to local residents in our area and helping us get things done.”

In Mannington and Western, Labour councillor Jim Robbins said: “Residents don’t seem to be unhappy with the proposals.”

Elsewhere in Wiltshire there are some major changes.

The North Wiltshire constituency held by James Gray would be reformed out of existence.

A swathe of north Wiltshire from Bybrook to Cricklade including Malmesbury, Minety and Purton, but not Royal Wootton Bassett would be put into a new constituency with Cirencester and its satellite villages called Cirencester and North Wiltshire.

Swindon Advertiser:

Royal Wootton Bassett and Calne would be moved into Chippenham constituency, but Chippenham would lose much of its current area to a new patch, Melksham and Devizes, with Corsham and Bradford on Avon included – the old Devizes constituency having lost most of its area to East Wiltshire.

South West Wiltshire meanwhile keeps Trowbridge, but the Boundary Commission suggests it is renamed Trowbridge and Warminster and it loses Tisbury to the redrawn Salisbury constituency, which loses Amesbury to East Wiltshire.

Why are boundary lines being redrawn?

Constituencies across England are being redrawn as part of a government plan to even up representation across the UK. The idea is to ensure that every parliamentary seat represents the same number of people – around 73,400; the only exceptions being a few protected seats such as two on the Isle of Wight, and Shetland & Orkney.

The move will see no increase in the total number of MPs at 650, but England will gain 10 seats with Wales and Scotland losing eight and two respectively.

The South West will gain three seats, taking it to 58, London will gain two and the South East will gain seven, going up to 91, with losses in the West Midlands, North West and North East of England.

The efforts to get every constituency to be the same size, means some borders have to be crossed – areas like Wanborough and Wroughton might be split from their ‘natural’ home of South Swindon and parts of North Wiltshire joined with Cirencester in Gloucestershire.

Parliament must agree before the proposals come into force in 2023 as planned.