David Morris MP protects Morecambe and Lunesdale at Commission Hearing

On Monday David Morris MP attended the Boundary Commission's public hearing to voice his constituent’s opinions on the disastrous  proposals by the Electoral Commission for a Morecambe and Lancaster Parliamentary seat and a huge North Lancashire Parliamentary Seat.

You can read his full speech here: 

I am here today to support the views of my constituents in Morecambe and Lunesdale and oppose the proposals put forward by this Commission, which is to create a Morecambe and Lancaster seat and a North Lancashire seat.

I would firstly like to start by drawing the Commission to their own comments from the last Boundary review in 2011, which the Commission decided that Morecambe and Lancaster do not fit together and proposed that Morecambe and Lunesdale should historically stay the same with the reintroduction and addition of the Lower Lune Valley Ward into the Seat.

In the North West Revised proposals 2011 on page 60 it states:

AC354 We now examine the Morecambe and Lunesdale constituency under the initial proposals. The Initial proposals separated Morecambe from Lancaster,  it has been suggested that these towns should be combined, The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats oppose this in the irrespective counter proposals- in some isolation in our view.   

AC355 It is clear to us that to combine them would disrupt local ties and would fly in the face of the clearly expressed views of local people, whose argument is a simple one they are entirely different places. The Lancaster constituency was described to us as ‘urban and rural’, whereas Morecambe is ‘seaside and rural community’ (Preston public hearing, Day 2, p3). We note the presence also of the University of Lancaster in the Lancaster Constituency. 

AC356 We also observe that the existing constituency arrangement is the same as in the initial proposals, in so far as the two towns are already separated. We intend to respect the existing boundaries to this extent, whereas the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party would redraw them.

AC357 We recognise that there will be three local authorities to deal within our recommended Lancaster constituency. In our view however, this is a small disadvantage when compared to the mismatch of two towns and the significant disruption to surrounding constiuencys that would ensue, should Lancaster and Morecambe be combined. We were heartened to hear that although they share the same city council, meetings are held in both Lancaster and Morecambe (Preston public hearing, Day 1, p49) We also note a petition with 333 signatures (IP/025613) in support of the initial proposal.

AC358 Therefore, we are persuaded to recommend the Commision’s proposed Morecambe and Lunesdale constituency, as set out in the initial proposals, for three main reasons. First, it keeps Morecambe and Lancaster separate. Second it reduces disruption to local ties and largely reflects the existing constituency and third, the only alteration to the current constituency reunites the Lower Lune Valley with the Upper Lune Valley ward, thus better representing local Government boundaries. Ms Emma Smith, a local Councillor from Morecambe, endorsed this referring us to the rural issues affecting the area. (Preston public hearing ,Day1 ,p49).

This proposal for a Morecambe and Lancaster seat has really upset people in Morecambe and Lunesdale and I am sure you will see this in the substantial written responses which are being submitted.

People in Morecambe generally feel that these boundaries have been drawn by someone in London who has never been to our area and who has not taken into consideration other consultation periods to date.

Historically Morecambe and Lancaster have always been separate and Morecambe and Lancaster has never existed as the name of the seat. Looking as far back as the redistribution of seats act 1944 Morecambe and Lancaster have always been in separate Constituencies.

In Morecambe there is still a lot of Bad blood following the merger of the Councils of Morecambe and Lancaster, this is the reason why the Council has to meet in both Lancaster and Morecambe, to this day. Indeed the creation of the Local Political Party of the MBI’S are a direct result of this merger and the recent creation of a Morecambe Town Council still demonstrates the feeling of resentment towards Lancaster.

Any proposals to change this duel meeting over the years have led to fierce opposition and have been dropped as it has been seen as Lancaster is absorbing Morecambe by stealth.

In Morecambe there is a universally held feeling that Lancaster takes all of Morecambe’s funding on a council level and that to support one area is always to a detriment of the other.I do not feel that one Member of Parliament would be able to support the differing needs of a student city and a seaside resort properly or effectively.

It is a real fear amongst constituents that following the opening of the Link Road Lancaster will try and take advantage of Morecambe’s economic prosperity to take any future funding for themselves. This may seem a little over the top but I can assure you it is a universally held fear in Morecambe and its wider community as Morecambe has dramatically improved its fortunes in the recent years.

The main concern is that a merger with Lancaster would be detrimental to regeneration of Morecambe as a seaside town. I think my favourite response so far was:

‘I’m voting Lexit,.. exit from Lancaster’.

Similarly the proposal for North Lancashire has also met opposition locally. To marry Carnforth, Silverdale, Warton, Kellet and the Upper Lune Valley with wards and areas of the Ribble Valley and Rural Preston is quite simply unworkable. This proposal has no centre to it and would lead to a representative being seen to be spread too thin in a vast Constituency to the detriment of the other areas.

I believe that this representative would end up being Preston centric and would not be able to represent Carnforth and the surrounding rural areas to the boarders of Cumbria and Yorkshire effectively in such a large rural seat.

There is no natural links between these areas and no-one from the wards in my constituency ever have the need to visit any of the other parts on any regular basis.  

One of the responses I had said:

 ‘Carnforth should be linked with a large local town not areas I never visit or have any dealings with.’

This view has been repeated across the whole community not just in the rural areas of Morecambe and Lunesdale but also in the Ribble Valley.  There are 4 Councils in this proposed North Lancashire Constituency and the issues and problems faced by residents are completely different.

I do not think that a one size fits all approach can be given this collective of rural areas… They are completely separate Valleys, let alone communities, and should remain as such.

Counter Proposal

I would now like to come to my suggestion for a counter proposal and I would like to support the Conservative Party’s counter proposal for Lancashire.

I would like to see a proposal which keeps Morecambe and Lunesdale together in its entirety and adds two wards, Lower Lune Valley and Bulk, to ensure the number of electors fits within the specified boundaries criteria and becomes 71,400.

Firstly I would like to draw the Commissions attention to Paragraph 31 of the Boundary Commission’s document for the initial proposals for new parliamentary Constituencies in the North West.

In this paragraph the Commission state that:

We decided that we could not maintain the separation of the towns in different constituencies, as is the existing arrangement, because this would lead to a geographically huge constituency that would wrap around the City of Lancaster

And

We would have preferred a solution that retained the university site within a constituency with Lancaster but, having carefully examined the alternatives, concluded that any other solution would result in greater division of the City of Lancaster.

I believe that the Conservative Party’s proposal succeeds in being able to keep Morecambe and Lancaster separate, and puts the University back with Central Lancaster, where it belongs.

It avoids a huge rural constituency which wraps around the centre of Lancaster, which is strangely exactly what these initial Boundary Commission proposals would like to avoid but unintentionally actually create.

The biggest rural area around a city in the Country, in this case Lancaster.

The Lower Lune Valley was an area the Boundary Commission proposed adding to Morecambe and Lunesdale in the last Boundary consultation, and in fact half of the ward was with Morecambe and Lunesdale up until as recently as 2010.

The Lune Valley is one community and the arbitrary distinction between Upper and Lower Lune Valley is not a distinction that is made by local residents. There is currently a lot of confusion in places such as Claughton, Tatham and Wray.These villages are a field distance outside Morecambe and Lunesdale and I am always getting casework letter which I have to redirect. This proposal will give them cohesive representation in an enhanced Morecambe and Lunesdale.

A Major factor of why the Lower Lune Valley should be in Morecambe and Lunesdale is the M6 Link Road.This road is opening next week, and therefore won’t be on your maps quite yet but is one of the biggest road building projects the area has seen in a generations.

The link road starts in the Lower Lune Valley at Junction 34 of the M6 and cuts across all the way through to Heysham. This By-pass was built so that you no longer have to go through Lancaster to get to Morecambe which is even more reason why Morecambe should be separate from Lancaster.

The road will revolutionise the area and solidify Morecambe even further as a community separate from Lancaster. It makes total sense to keep the beginning, the, middle and the end of the road in one Parliamentary Constituency.

The counter proposal also brings in Bulk to Morecambe and Lunesdale. I have heard some arguments that Bulk is in the centre of Lancaster and I would argue that that is not correct. Bulk is only one of 6 wards in the Lancaster area, 18% to be precise of the area known as Lancaster, and many of its parts have ties with other areas around them.

There are many new developments at the Old Moor Hospital site at the north end of the ward. These homes see themselves very much on the outskirts of Lancaster and more in common with the rural areas of the Lower Lune Valley in which they border. In fact I know of a number of Constituents for Morecambe and Lunesdale who have moved from the Upper Lune Valley to this development and they still identify themselves as being in the valley rural area.

The areas of Newton and Ridge reflect the communities in Skerton on the other side of the river in Morecambe and Lunesdale and are the same distance out of the centre of Lancaster. They complement each other on either side of the river.

Bringing in the Link Road again, in Bulk there is the Lansil Industrial Estate, it would make huge sense to link this area with the White Lund estate and also the Port of Heysham as part of the Industrial Strategy for the area, which all benefit from connection to the Port and connection to the M6 respectively. With this, the road network will also be married up into one Constituency, I have already talked about the M6 Link road but also the roads to Morecambe, Caton Road Greyhound Bridge and Owen road, will all be in Morecambe and Lunesdale and mean that none of the connection roads to Morecambe will be in Lancaster and give greater independence to the area.

A disruption of 11.4% of the current Lancaster and Fleetwood seat , and only two wards at that, will allow 100% of Morecambe and Lunesdale to stay unchanged in their historically recognised community.

In conclusion I hope that the large volume of individually written letters from constituents in Morecambe and Lunesdale will be taken into consideration by the Commission, and that changes can be made to the proposals based on the strength of feeling of my communities. I would like to see a proposal which keeps our community together, and adds a further two wards which is the most logical and least disruptive option for both Lancaster and Morecambe Communities.

This would mean 89% of the proposed seat would be keeping the status quo.

 Whilst I understand that the addition of the Bulk ward is being contested by the Labour Party it is only 1 of 6 wards of the whole of Lancaster with most of that being on the outskirts, and there new homes are being built to house a new addition to that community.

It would be much better to add this ward and keep the status quo in a whole community rather than displacing 66,000 people in a hugely unpopular proposal.

To abolish our community with it’s unique historical identity would be a travesty, and I hope this Commission take note of this feeling by reading all of the handwritten comments currently being submitted.