In reference to the Northampton Review and in particular the proposals put forward by the Northampton Borough Council for St.James Ward, we would like to draw your attention to and object in part to the proposal for St.James Ward.
Firstly, it would seem appropriate to say which parts of the Review we would agree with. We welcome the proposal to bring the present Castle Ward sector of St.James into the ward and we also welcome the proposal to remove Briar Hill from the ward. These would seem to be common sense suggestions based on the recommendation to “provide good electoral equality and a clear warding pattern using man-made and natural boundaries. The Council’s
proposals were also supported by evidence of community identity,” to quote the Council; submission.
Part of the proposal includes moving a large section of housing from below Bants Lane into the “Old Duston Ward”, this includes Malcolm Drive and Lyncrest Avenue areas, which may make sense, given their location. This move, however also includes moving Abbots Way, Peverel’s Way and the adjoining dwellings on Weedon Road into the new ward, some 95 houses, which makes no sense, as it goes against the Commission’s recommendation and the Council’s proposal.
We wish to object to the 95 houses being moved into the “Old Duston Ward”. The committee of this association has discussed at length the proposal and residents’ concerns, and as a consequence feel that, based on the principle that any decision taken must give consideration to “clear warding pattern using man-made and natural boundaries and evidence of community identity,” these 95 houses have been wrongly included in the proposal.
This “square” of 95 houses at present form a natural part of St.James area and ward, because they are separated from the rest of the proposed new ward by the natural boundary of the extremely busy Weedon Road. The nearest facilities to the affected area are half a mile away, which includes the community centre, Post Office, banks, shops, hairdressers etc, all part of the busy St.James Square: the hub of the community, not to mention the shops and facilites in between. All of these fall within the existing and proposed new St.James Ward. The nearest community facilites in the proposed new ward will be well over a mile away across and through several busy main roads: not very convenient at all!
We also feel that commmunity Policing will be comprimised severely, should the proposal go ahead. At present the “95” are well served by the St.James Safer Community Team, whom regularly patrol the area and know intrinsicly any problems that affect these streets; the Community Support Officers are on first name terms with many residents and this relationship has taken a long while to nuture. If these 95 houses are moved “across the road” to the new ward we will be policed by another Safer Community Team who will have no knowledge of the area or the needs of local residents, and we suggest will frequently be too busy in the large new ward to cross the natural boundary of Weedon Road to visit the these streets.
The busy Weedon Road forms a natural line or as we fear, a barrier between areas and this will prove to be a barrier to effective communication between Police, residents and Councillors alike.
We also fear that by the nature of the new proposal (the 95 houses will be surrounded on three sides by St. James Ward), people and offical bodies will automatically assume that these houses must form part of the St.James Ward because of their location –stuck out like a pimple on the boundary of the new ward! Who will venture across the main road to find out?
The 95 houses of Abbots way, Peverel’s way and Weedon Road have long campained to be recognised and have their concerns taken seriously in all matters, which with the help of an active residents association and concientious residents is finaly happening, but within the their natural community of St.James and St.James Ward, represented very well by the existing three Councillors.
These houses have nothing whatsoever to do with Duston or Old Duston or their wards and have little in common in terms of problems that affect them. Furthermore these houses are actually built on the site of the grounds of the 15th Century St. James Abbey as any ordance survey/land registery map will show.
The Boundary Commission says that; “Where we have moved away from the Council’s
proposals, we have sought to use clearer ward boundaries that will result in good
communication across each ward”. As evidenced by the previous points, this is obviously not the case here and we urge the commision to rectify the matter as on the present layout “communication across the boundary” will be hampered due to the design of the ward.
One other area affected by the proposal is “The Avenue” off Harlestone Road, which is also proposed to be moved into Spencer Ward, again this also does not follow natural boundaries or communities and the areas have very little in common with each other. However, we have not been able, due to constraints on time and resources, to canvass the residents affected. We have though, been able to canvass the 95 households affected by the above proposals, as follows:-
We knocked every door of the 95 houses;
Out of those, 70 were at home and were asked if they had a preference as to staying in St.James Ward or would rather be in the new ward;
95 people from the 70 households wished to remain in St.James Ward, which reflects a total of 97% of respondents;
All of the 97% wished to sign a petition based on the thoughts above;
3 people or 3% did not wish to sign on the basis that they did not understand the proposal.
This survey/petition is very convincing and reflects what the residents actually want to happen and further we feel it must have some bearing on any decision taken by the Review Officer.
To summarise, the proposal to include the “95” goes against the council’s recommendation in so much as it does not reflect natural boundaries and communities; it also threatens to undermine local identity, relationships and community partnerships that have taken several years, and in the case of local identity – generations to develop. Whilst we appreciate the Review Officer’s duty to develop ward boundaries that may be appropriate demographically, the grass roots needs of the communities must be given greater consideration if not priority, in this case, over the former. The grass roots opinion reflected by the majority of households objects to the proposal, as recorded in the attached petition.
Finally, it may seem to be late in the day for an objection or proposal to be put forward to the
commission and one may wonder why we did not take part in the Borough Council Committee Review, it is quite simple: this association was not invited to take part. At no stage have we been contacted by the Borough Council for our views on this important matter. The only reason we know about it is through informal discussion and mentions by residents and casual visits to the council website; as such we feel the Borough Council has failed to collect a meaningful sample of opinion from the people affected most by the proposal.
We hope a common sense decision will be taken in the Review and look forward to hearing from you as a matter of course.
John Connolly (Chair) and Graham Croucher (Secretary),
on behalf of St. James Residents Association and the “95” houses of Abbots Way, Peverel’s Way and the adjoining Weedon Road.