Proposals to merge Wilmslow, Handforth and Chorley parishes to form a new parish are proving very unpopular.
Cheshire East Council has carried out a review of the governance arrangements of all of the borough's town and parish councils and is recommending a number of changes to parish areas and parish electoral arrangements.
As a result of the review, the Council is making draft recommendations for changes to the community governance arrangements of the parishes of the Borough which include merging the existing parishes of Wilmslow, Handforth and Chorley to create a new enlarged parish which will be called Wilmslow.
Whilst aware that the current draft being considered by Cheshire East Council may not be the final document that goes to official consultation, Wilmslow Town Council has written to Cheshire East Council to express their disaproval of the merger.
The letter states "Wilmslow Town Council opposes any merger of Wilmslow Town Council, Handforth Parish Council, and Chorley Parish Council. The draft proposals published by Cheshire East Council are predicated on the incorrect assumption that Wilmslow, Handforth, and Chorley are a single community. This is not the case. Wilmslow, Handforth and Chorley are three distinct and separate communities and should be represented by their own, separate Councils. We also note that this issue in relation to Wilmslow and Handforth has already been voted on by residents as recently as 2011 leading to the present, satisfactory, arrangements.
"The formation of Wilmslow and Handforth Councils has strengthened the community identities of these two areas. Chorley has never been part of Wilmslow and does not identify itself as part of the Wilmslow area. We ask that the draft recommendations are rewritten to take into account this information as well as the wishes of the three Councils and local residents."
Martin Watkins, Chairman of Wilmslow Town Council said "Wilmslow Town Council opposes the merger of Handforth and Chorley Parish Councils with us. We are not one entity but three historically different communities. Three referendums were held in 2010 which, for Wilmslow and Handforth, clearly indicated the wish for separate councils, a view we believe will be re-enforced should we request Cheshire East to conduct a repeat exercise prior to any boundary changes. These views have been communicated to Cheshire East prior to their 12 week consultation period begins."
Members of both Handforth and Chorley Parish Councils as well as Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group also expressed their objections to the merger at the Council's Constitution Committee meeting on Tuesday, 6th April.
Councillor John Smith, Handforth Parish Council, spoke about his Council's opposition to a merger with Wilmslow and Chorley Parish Councils on the grounds that Handforth was a community in its own right and should be allowed to continue as such.
Dr Roger Small, spoke on behalf of the Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group in opposition to a merger with Wilmslow and Chorley on the grounds that the evidence did not justify such a merger and that the principles and criteria underpinning the community governance review had been applied inconsistently and erroneously.
Additionally, Ashley Comiskey Dawson, Clerk to Chorley Parish Council, voiced his Council's opposition to a merger with Wilmslow and Handforth, as Chorley was a village with its own distinct rural identity.
The draft recommendations will be the subject of a 12-week public consultation.
If required, adjustments will then be made to develop the final recommendations which will go before the Full Council for approval in Autumn 2021.