All Members of Parliament representing constituencies in Cheshire East are campaigning together to protect the identities of their local villages in response to Cheshire East Council's Community Governance Review on the future responsibilities and boundaries of local councils in our area.
At a recent meeting of the Conservatives MPs in Parliament, Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Esther McVey (Tatton), Kieran Mullan (Crewe & Nantwich), David Rutley (Macclesfield) and Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) all set out their concerns about the plans, which will see the closure or merger of many parish and local councils across the Borough of Cheshire East. Whilst other villages will be brought into areas represented by larger town councils, causing concern about how their unique characters will be able to endure.
The local MPs agreed that the "plans will deeply damage local community spirit and the identities of local villages in the constituencies they represent".
The proposals include the amalgamation of Wilmslow, Handforth and Chorley which MP Esther McVey says will create a mammoth town council made up of three very diverse communities.
She told wilmslow.co.uk "It is difficult to see how a forced amalgamation would benefit either Handforth or Wilmslow. Both are sufficiently large enough in their own right to be sustainable and any amalgamated Council would represent a truly significant number of Cheshire East residents; particularly given the number of new houses being built around Handforth. It would be far larger than virtually any other Town or Parish Council in the Borough.
"Adding Chorley into the mix is also misjudged, given that residents in Chorley have their own clear identity and don't particularly have an affinity with Wilmslow (and even less with Handforth). Again, there are parishes of similar sizes that have not been recommended for addition to adjacent areas. It feels very much as though Chorley has been added to align parish boundaries with the ward boundaries at Cheshire East Council. You can't force what isn't a natural affinity. The only likely outcome will be to drive a lack of local engagement within Chorley.
"It is also difficult to imagine why adding one of the largest parishes in Cheshire East (in Handforth) to an area already large enough to sustain a Town Council is a logical conclusion given the number of far smaller parishes that have been judged to be sustainable as they are.
"It seems to me that the council are trying to align parish boundaries in line with council boundaries. I have also had people say to me that the reason this is being done is because it would deal with the historic problems of Handforth Parish Council. If this is the case, this is not the way to deal with such a problem. I have made my views clear and I hope other residents wanting to contribute will do so in the coming weeks."
After their meeting, the Cheshire MPs issued a joint statement, saying: "The plans in Cheshire East Council's Community Governance Review are causing widespread concern in local rural communities and villages across the Borough of Cheshire East.
"We would urge as many local residents as possible to take part in the consultation and set out their views. If you have any questions, please contact your local MP.
"It's time to show active support for our rural communities, our local identities, and our County's heritage over the crucial days ahead."
A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council said: "As a public consultation is ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment on individual representations currently under consideration. The views expressed by the Members of Parliament representing constituencies within Cheshire East Borough are noted and will be considered as part of the consultation process.
"This public consultation provides people and stakeholder bodies with an opportunity to make the case for alternative proposals to those now recommended. We urge people and stakeholders to take part in this process and share their views.
"It should be emphasised that nothing is yet decided, as a community governance review is a complex task. Any changes to be made would follow reflection on the responses to this latest consultation – including with town and parish councils – and a decision by full council.
"The purpose of the review, which follows government guidance, is to ensure that community governance arrangements are fit for purpose and 'continue to reflect local identities and facilitate effective and convenient local government'.
"Government guidance advises that such reviews should take place every 10-15 years and this review is intended to take account of a range of issues, including major changes to the housing, electorates and infrastructure within the borough. The last one was done before Cheshire East Council was created in 2009."
Local residents now have the chance to express their views in the public consultation on Cheshire East Council's Community Governance Review, which
can be accessed online at https://surveys.cheshireeast.gov.uk/s/CGReview2.
The consultation started in early September, and ends at midnight on Sunday 28 November 2021.
When finalised the changes will be implemented before the scheduled local elections in May 2023.