Our county’s market towns have been expanding into their extra mural parishes for many years. There will be much more housing and business development on the edges of the market towns in the years to come.
This article is not about the whys and wherefores of housing and other development. It is about local governance. Are our town and parish council boundaries still fit for purpose?
The debate on that gets underway in earnest in few days’ time. If any changes are proposed and agreed, they will come into force in May 2025.
I am one of the members of Shropshire Council’s working group on governance. We haven’t met yet as a group yet but I don’t think any of us will think that the process of redrawing parish and ward boundaries will be easy.
Shropshire Council has put together a working group of eleven councillors to examine whether current parish and town council boundaries are still fit for purpose.
Most parish council boundaries in Shropshire are old, even ancient. But do they suit the needs of 21st century governance?
Any change in boundaries is likely to be controversial. There will be resistance from long established parishes to having their boundaries changed. Perhaps some parishes will be abolished altogether in a few cases.
But the pressure for change is irresistible.
The expansion of market towns into neighbouring parishes is disrupting local governance. Town councils meet and discuss major planning applications that are not, literally, in their parish but in a rural parish on the edge of town. That means town councils are not statutory consultees in the process. That’s despite the developments have a significant impact on the town, its centre and its services.
This situation also leads to a disparity in local precepts. Extramural parishes usually pay a much lower precept and contribute nothing towards town council funding for services. People can live on the edge of a town and take advantage of town council provided services but pay nothing towards those services.
This review is just about to begin. There will be public engagement. We don’t yet know what form that will take. I will of course keep people updated as more information is issued.
The review will not include Shropshire Council wards (divisions). The working group is to write to the Boundary Commission for England asking for a review of unitary ward boundaries as these are also becoming unfit for purpose in some areas of the county.
The working group will have 11 members , six Conservatives, two Lib Dems, one Green, one Labour, one Independent:
- Nick Bardsley (C, Ruyton and Baschurch)
- Andy Boddington (LD, Ludlow North)
- Gwilym Butler (C, Cleobury Mortimer)
- Ted Clarke (L, Bayston Hill, Column and Sutton)
- Nick Hignett (C, Rea Valley)
- Simon Jones (C, Shawbury)
- Duncan Kerr (G, Oswestry South)
- David Minnery (I, Market Drayton)
- Cecilia Motley (C, Corvedale)
- Alex Wagner (LD, Bowbrook)
- Claire Wild (C, Severn Valley).