Boundary Commission proposals to carve up Herne Hill

Tomorrow, Monday 2 August, is the last day on which we can submit our comments to the Boundary Commission’s proposals to abolish our constituency and split it three ways – an outcome that would seriously weaken our ability to articulate our interests to local authorities and central government, which can at present be voiced by our current MP.

I am thinking in part of Helen Hayes’ ability and willingness to support our local refugee initiatives, which would inevitably be diminished under the Commission’s proposals. But there are many other implications in the current proposals.

Herne Hill carved up?

The Herne Hill Society has already commented.  But individual objections also count. Those who believe that our identity is important could perhaps take a few minutes to get a grasp of the issues and lodge a comment on the Boundary Commission website (link at the end).

For what it is worth, I have written in the following terms, which draw heavily on the well-argued submission from the Herne Hill Society:

“I am strongly opposed to the Boundary Commission’s proposals for the drawing the constituency boundaries for Herne Hill, an area with a strong local identity centred (though not exclusively) on the SE24 postcode. I strongly urge the Commission to develop an alternative solution, perhaps along the lines identified below.

Under the current proposals, Herne Hill, the area in which I live, would be divided between three constituencies. This means that the Lambeth ward of Herne Hill would become part of the new Clapham and Brixton constituency; the Southwark ward of Dulwich Village would become part of the new constituency of Dulwich and Sydenham; and the Lambeth ward of Thurlow Park would be attached to the far-distant Streatham area. Herne Hill is already divided between two London boroughs, but this proposal sees it losing its current unity within one parliamentary constituency.

This is a major loss to the people of Herne Hill on two levels.

The first relates to local identity, a vital element in a city as large as London. An essential part of community cohesion is the sense of belonging to a particular place. People are motivated by this sense to strive for the best outcomes for their area. One of the criteria that the Boundary Commission must take account of is “local links that would be broken by changes in constituencies”. The local links in this case are those that have given Herne Hill its cohesion and hence its very identity over many generations. Splitting Herne Hill three ways can only be permanently damaging to Herne Hill’s identity and would gravely hamper our ability to voice our democratic concerns.

The second level of loss concerns the practical advantages for Herne Hill in being in one constituency and is therefore easier to define. There are distinct benefits in having one member of parliament, particularly where local issues concern the whole of the Herne Hill community. These include Issues such as traffic calming measures and transport more generally, public safety and policing, and the promotion of social, humanitarian, educational and economic initiatives that help keep our community together. It makes practical sense for one member of parliament to represent Herne Hill’s interests. In the present constituency, one member of parliament can – and does – speak to the local authorities in both Southwark and Lambeth, as well as to national government, and can have an overview of matters that cross the borough boundary. Under the Boundary Commission proposals as they affect Herne Hill, Southwark and Lambeth are divided. In our view, this can only lead to a fragmentation of the interests of Herne Hill and a lessening of the ability of our community to be heard effectively through parliamentary representation.

However, there is a counter-proposal that would achieve the goal of numerical parity within given margins and avoid the harm to Herne Hill outlined above without inflicting disproportionate disadvantages on other areas.

This solution would involve retaining the current constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood (or whatever name is most appropriate), but with some modification of the boundaries. Thus the revised constituency would comprise: the wards of Coldharbour, Gipsy Hill, Herne Hill, Knight’s Hill and Thurlow Park in Lambeth, and the wards of Champion Hill, Dulwich Village and Dulwich Wood in Southwark.

I urge the Boundary Commission to consider this alternative solution which would ensure that Herne Hill remains within one parliamentary constituency, an arrangement which has served us well over many years.”

The link to the Boundary Commission’s comment facility is here.

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