Community Governance Review (CGR) 2022 Final Report
The Community Governance Review of Parishes in Mid Devon District Council, commenced on 15 December 2021, when the Council published the Terms of Reference for the Review. The first stage of a public consultation, seeking views from a wide range of individuals; residents; groups with special interests; parish councils.
2. First Consultation Stage
At the close of that consultation period at the end of February 2022, 77 submissions where received for consideration by the Council’s Electoral Review Committee (ERC) on 5 and 16 May 2022 and the proposed outline document was approved by the Council on 6 June 2022.
There were two matters relating to Crediton Hamlets and the parishes of Halberton, Uffculme and Willand that arose from a number of submissions received at the first stage.
A number of submissions from individuals had been received with regard to the creation of a ‘Yeoford’ Parish. As the Electoral Review Terms of Reference (ToR) did not include a provision for creating new parishes, this matter could not be considered as the provision of creating new parishes under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 (LGPIHA) 2007, was brought in to encourage the creation of new parishes in those areas that were not already parished. This is not the case in respect of Crediton Hamlets
The parish council also submitted a representation opposing the idea of a separate ‘parish’ for Yeoford. If the existing Yeoford parish ward was removed from their parish, leaving only Hookway, it would not be large enough in respect of the electorate to be a viable separate parish. Therefore, the ERC took the view that the Crediton Hamlets Parish Council should remain a single parish. However, given the number of electors within the Yeoford ward of the parish, it was proposed that the second stage of consultation would include seeking views as to whether the number of parish councillors for that ward be increased from 5 to 7.
Halberton, Uffculme and Willand:
The most complex submissions received related to those submitted by the parish councils of Halberton, Willand and Uffculme, plus a number of individual representations. Halberton PC is geographically the largest of the three parishes and lies entirely within the new District ward of Halberton. Uffculme PC is warded with the Village Ward in the new District Ward of Lower Culm and the Ashill Ward in the new District Ward of Upper Culm. Willand PC lies entirely within the District Ward of Lower Culm. There is a long history of disagreement concerning the boundaries between Halberton and Uffculme and Halberton and Willand, partly stoked by perceived difficulties in road communication brought about by the construction of the M5 motorway, and further exacerbated by other matters and housing development. As a result, the Council approved on 6 June 2022 that three options be consulted on for the second consultation stage.
3. Second Consultation Stage
The second consultation period started on 23 August and concluded on 23 October 2022, during which time, 86 submissions where received.
The ERC met on 1 and 7 November to consider all of the submissions, which also included a number of issues arising from the first consultation period.
4. Matters considered by the ERC following both consultation periods
During both consultation periods, there were submissions from residents and parish councils relating to 31 parish areas, plus a few general views on the purpose of a Review and some matters concerning changes in respect of areas that fall outside of Mid Devon District boundaries. We also received a number of submissions requesting that ‘no change’ take place in respect of their particular parish arrangements. In the main, the ERC has taken into account those requests.
The parish areas that did receive comments from, are listed below:-
Bickleigh; Bradninch; Burlescombe; Cadeleigh; Cheriton Bishop; Cheriton Fitzpaine; Clayhidon; Coldridge; Colebrooke; Copplestone; Crediton Hamlets; Halberton; Hittisleigh; Holcombe Rogus; Kentisbeare; Loxbere; Morchard Bishop; Morebath; Newton St Cyres; Nymet Rowland; Oakford; Puddington; Sandford; Shobrooke; Stoodleigh; Thelbridge; Thorverton; Uffculme; Washfield; Wembworthy; Willand.
5. Halberton, Uffculme and Willand
In the ‘Final Recommendations for The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) – New electoral arrangements for Mid Devon District Council January 2021’, it is very clear that the Commission recognised that there were significant issues in relation to a number of conflicting views in relation to all the neighbouring areas and it took the view that “We (LGBCE) consider that a community governance review, carried out by the (District) Council after the completion of this electoral review, would be the most effective way to effect parish boundary changes in this area. A request for related alterations following a community governance review would then provide the Council with an opportunity to modify district wards so they are coterminous with any revised parish boundaries.”
The greatest number of submissions (60) from the second consultation were in relation to the three options put forward by the ERC in respect of the Halberton, Uffculme and Willand parish boundaries. Of the three options, 50 Submissions were in favour of Option 3 to “Move from Halberton Parish to Uffculme Parish - Lucombe Park, together with Hitchcocks and Langlands Business Parks, and the area north east of Bridwell Avenue, plus moving from Halberton Parish to Willand Parish - the Mid Devon Business Park.”
However, at the Council meeting 1 December 2022, it was decided that Option 2 be approved (Lucombe Park together with the area north east of Bridwell Avenue be moved from Halberton to Uffculme and the Mid Devon Business Park be moved from Halberton to Willand.
It was further agreed that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England be asked to implement a ‘related alteration’ in order to put into effect the boundary changes to the district wards of Halberton and Lower Culm.
6. Cheriton Bishop, Crediton Hamlets and Hittisleigh
Following on from the first stage submission 33 from Hittisleigh PC, regarding the fringes of the parish boundaries, the ERC agreed that further consultation would take place and the views of neighbouring parish councils be invited.
The description of the boundaries are as follows:
“In the westerly direction the boundary would extend from West Ford Farm, along the river to the lane beneath West Fursham Farm and include West Fursham, East Fursham and Easton Barton. This addition to the parish would meet at Fursham Cross.
In the easterly direction from Hittisleigh Mill, the new boundary would run up the Yeo River to Binneford, continue up the lane to meet the lane from Yeoford, turn left and then right down Road Down Lane and meet the existing boundary below Road Down Farm. Properties on the eastern side would include East Church Farm, Shortridge Farm, Trevince, Binneford House, Binneford Farm and Binneford Studio, Summer Corner, East Binneford Farm, Summerhill Farm, Woodside Bungalow and Road Down Farm.
A number of residents in these properties feel strongly that they would like to be within the Hittisleigh Parish, rather than within parishes with hubs at significant distance and to which they have less community connection. Several residents note that within their lifetime their property has been removed from Hittisleigh Parish, that their postal address is actually Hittisleigh and that they would like to be back within the Parish.”
Members of the ERC stated that Crediton Hamlets Parish Council were happy with the boundary change and that the land transferred from Colebrooke to Hittisleigh only included Road Down Farm and a bungalow, so would not lose much in terms of council tax.
Whilst there was some concern raised over not hearing from Colebrooke Parish Council on this matter, Colebrooke Parish Council would have been sent these proposals. This would follow the natural boundary of the road.
In addition, a request was made to move The Orchard property from Hittisleigh to Cheriton Bishop. It was highlighted that The Orchard property and West Ford Farm, this change would mean that the road would be used as the boundary as opposed to the river.
As such, the Council agreed that the boundary changes proposed as set out above be accepted with the amendment that the boundary followed the road north of The Orchard, so that The Orchard be part of Cheriton Bishop Parish Council.
7. Nymet Rowland
Arising from the second stage of consultation, a submission was received requesting that the parish be merged with another parish as it was considered too small (in terms of electorate), the only ‘suitable’ Parish it could be part of was Lapford Parish Council. However, consultation on this matter had not taken place with Lapford Parish Council.
It was agreed by the Council that the possibility of merging of both parishes could be further considered at a future time.
8. Cruwys Morchard and Thelbridge (Nomansland)
A submission was received during the first consultation period concerning the issue that the area known as Nomansland was split by the two existing district ward boundaries of Sandford & Creedy ward, and Way ward. Under the new district ward boundaries that come into effect in May 2023, this would bring both areas into a single district ward (Way). However, the ‘village’ still lies between both parishes (53 properties in Cruwys Morchard PC and 56 properties in Thelbridge PC). As such, the ERC welcomed the views of residents and both parish councils.
During the second consultation period, both Parish Councils (Cruwys Morchard and Thelbridge) voted for no change over this boundary, although the two parish councils believed that there was no issue.
It was noted that all the residents living in Nomansland would have travel some distance to vote from either Cruwys Morchard or Thelbridge and if Nomansland was placed into one of the parish council area it would be a substantial increase in electors for one parish and a substantial reduction for the other parish.
The ERC considered that the existing parish boundaries should be left for now but could be further considered in the future. In the meantime, the Council decided that there would be no change to the parish boundaries.
Wembworthy Parish Council put forward a submission that the ERC consider combining the Parish with Eggesford and Brushford parish meetings. They were of the view that this would give the two parish meetings better representation and a chance to benefit from the precept to improve their communities. Whilst Eggesford and Brushford are both Parish Meetings in Upper Yeo & Taw Ward and Wembworthy is in Taw Vale Ward. This does not exclude such a request but if this came into effect, Eggesford and Brushford would have to be warded.
If the ERC was so minded to further consider any of the issues arising from the above, the Council could consider a ‘limited’ CGR in the future.
10. The ERC also reviewed the number of councillors to be elected to each parish council.
Arising from the consultation with parish councils, the following changes were approved by the Council.
i) Bradninch (Rural Ward) be reduced from 2 to 1
ii) Bradninch (Town Ward) be increased from 10 to 11
iii) Burlescombe be reduced from 9 to 7
iv) Copplestone be increased from 7 to 9
v) Silverton (North Ward) be reduced from 2 to 1
vi) Silverton (Village Ward) be increased from 9 to 10
vii) Willand be increased from 11 to 12
The changes referred to would come into force for May 2023 elections.