The Boundary Commission for England has published its initial proposals for new Parliamentary constituency boundaries and there is an important opportunity to have your say. You can find out more here: BCE Consultation Portal (bcereviews.org.uk)
What is the Boundary Commission for England and what does it do?
The Boundary Commission for England is an independent body established by Parliament to review Parliamentary constituency boundaries periodically. The main purpose of the review is to even out the number of electors living in each constituency in England so that each MP represents similar numbers of residents.
This review is long overdue, as a result of a plan by the Government to reduce the overall number of constituencies which was abandoned at the last stage before implementation. The review needs to happen, and the new constituencies will be implemented in July 2023. General elections held after this date will be held with the new constituency boundaries in place.
What do the Boundary Commission’s proposals mean for Dulwich and West Norwood?
The current Boundary Commission proposals are bad for our area. They abolish the Dulwich and West Norwood constituency, and split our area between four separate new Parliamentary constituencies. This breaks long-held community ties, would result in several local communities being divided between different Parliamentary constituencies and could reduce the quality of parliamentary representation some communities have in the future.
Specifically, the proposals are as follows:
The Dulwich wards of Dulwich Village, Dulwich Wood, Dulwich Hill and Goose Green would join a new ‘Dulwich and Sydenham’ constituency, the rest of which is in the London Borough of Lewisham.
Herne Hill and Coldharbour wards would join a new ‘Clapham and Brixton’ constituency.
Thurlow Park ward would join a newly configured Streatham constituency.
Knight’s Hill and Gipsy Hill wards would join a new ‘Norwood’ constituency, the rest of which is in the London Borough of Croydon.
Why are these proposals bad for our area?
The current Dulwich and West Norwood constituency has been in existence since 1997. Prior to 1997 this area was represented by two constituencies, Dulwich and Norwood which had both been broadly consistent since 1885 with small changes made at different Boundary Reviews from time to time. This pattern of representation has created strong community ties between Lambeth and Southwark.
The Boundary Commission proposal breaks these strong community ties and would create new constituencies where community ties are much weaker – Dulwich has weaker community links with Sydenham than it does with the Lambeth parts of Herne Hill and West Dulwich, for example, and West Norwood has weak community links with Croydon.
The proposals would result in a number of communities being split between multiple parliamentary constituencies. Specifically, Herne Hill and West Dulwich would be represented by three different MPs; West Norwood and Gipsy Hill would be divided between two different MPs.
This division is particularly bad for communities which are already divided by the borough boundaries, including Herne Hill, West Dulwich and Gipsy Hill. In these areas, an MP who crosses the borough boundary can play an important role in bringing councils and community organisations together to tackle cross-border issues.
How would this make a difference in practice?
Here are some examples of the kinds of issues on which having a single MP to represent a whole geographic community has made a difference:
Events in Brockwell Park: Brockwell Park is the jewel in the crown of Herne Hill. The park is in Lambeth, but events in Brockwell Park can have an impact for residents across the whole of Herne Hill which is split between Lambeth and Southwark. The local MP has in the past been able to request and organise consultation meetings for both Lambeth and Southwark residents, and secure additional resources for waste collections from Lambeth’s events team on the Southwark part of Norwood Road and Half Moon Lane.
Herne Hill flood: In 2013, a catastrophic Thames Water burst devastated the centre of Herne Hill, flooding homes and businesses on both sides of the borough boundary. The local MP played a key role in the process of securing consistent representation in the compensation process for residents and businesses in both Lambeth and Southwark, which took several years to conclude.
Saving West Norwood Royal Mail delivery office: the Royal Mail delivery office in West Norwood was under threat in 2017. This delivery office serves residents and businesses in the SE27 postcode area, which is spread across the three wards of Thurlow Park, Gipsy Hill and Knight’s Hill. The local MP played a key role, working with community organisations and local ward councillors in the three wards, in galvanising a strong and effective community campaign, and together we forced Royal Mail to change their mind. Under the Boundary Commission proposals, these three wards would be represented by two MPs, undermining the coordinating role a single local MP can play.
Campaigning against the Windsor Grove scrapyard planning application: very recently, the local community once again campaigned on Windsor Grove, against a planning application for a large metal recycling facility which would have seen around 60 heavy trucks driving up and down Windsor Grove every day. Residents in three wards had strong views about the application, and a single MP helped to ensure that everyone was represented.
Business rates relief in West Dulwich: in 2017, businesses across Dulwich and West Norwood were hit by a big increase in business rates. In West Dulwich retail businesses on Croxted Road, Park Hall Road and Rosendale Road were scrambling to apply for business rates relief, but depending on whether they were in Lambeth or Southwark, the process for applying for relief was different. The local MP worked with Love West Dulwich to provide accurate information to businesses on the relief available in their local authority area, and to make strong representations to the government on the impact of the increase on our local businesses.
Traffic issues on Croxted Road: Croxted Road is a boundary road between Lambeth and Southwark currently experiencing high levels of traffic congestion. The local MP is convening a working group officers and councillors from Lambeth and Southwark and Transport for London to explore potential solutions to this issue.
Train times at West Dulwich station: West Dulwich station is located in Dulwich Wood ward in Southwark, but sits right on the borough boundary with Thurlow Park ward in Lambeth. When Southeastern consulted on a timetable which would have seen the number of trains stopping at West Dulwich station dramatically reduced, the local MP was able to make representations on behalf of both Lambeth and Southwark passengers, which ultimately led to the planned changes being dropped.
There are also many examples which demonstrate our strong community ties which should not be broken by the Boundary Commission, including:
- The Friends of Gipsy Hill – a group of volunteers who live in both the Lambeth and Southwark sides of Gipsy Hill who work hard to provide a community garden and support for local residents living in food poverty.
- West Norwood Feast – our much-loved community event which takes place every Sunday from April to November on sites in Gipsy Hill, Thurlow Park and Knights Hill wards, demonstrating the cohesiveness of the West Norwood community who live in and around the town centre.
- The Remembering Herne Hill 1914-1918 project, funded by Herne Hill Forum, engaged local school children in researching the stories of everyone who lived in Herne Hill (on both sides of the Lambeth-Southwark border) who lost their lives in World War I.
- Love West Dulwich is a strong coalition of businesses in West Dulwich who run events several times a year and work to promote local businesses on both sides of the borough boundary.
- Herne Hill velodrome and Brockwell Lido are both much-loved, vitally important local amenities which were saved from dereliction by strong community campaigns involving both Lambeth and Southwark residents in Herne Hill.
What can I do about this?
The Boundary Commission is consulting on its proposals and wants to hear from local community groups and individuals. The Boundary Commission say that they are particularly keen to respect community ties. If you care about keeping our communities together in a single Parliamentary constituency, and are concerned that the proposals will be bad for our area, please let the Boundary Commission know before Monday 2 August. You can do that by clicking on this link, entering your postcode, which will bring up the proposals for our area and then following the instructions to make a comment: BCE Consultation Portal (bcereviews.org.uk)
If you would like any further information, please email [email protected] with your questions, and please do let me know if you have made a submission.