|What’s an MP for? I’m sure there are many answers, some of which might not be complimentary and certainly not printable.
One of the main responsibilities of an MP is to represent the interests and concerns of their constituency, irrespective of party.
If the forthcoming Parliamentary Boundary changes, take effect, Stonesfield will no longer be in the Witney constituency but will move to the new Bicester constituency, with its own new MP. Stonesfield will be in the far south-west corner of the new constituency, dwarfed by the growing urban settlements of Bicester, Eynsham and its new garden village, and the soon-to-be Kidlington-Yarnton-Cassington conurbation.
Bicester will also be a major settlement in the Government’s Oxford-Cambridge Arc proposals that will bring hundreds of thousands of new houses to Oxfordshire. The likelihood is that the population of the new constituency will very soon break the 77,062 upper limit – I wonder if this has been taken into account?
Perhaps most importantly for Stonesfield a third of the current Witney constituency is in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Stonesfield is in the Burford – Charlbury sub area in the AONB and this was crucial in our battle against Cala Homes and their plan to build inappropriate housing in the village. There will hardly be any AONB in our constituency if we become part of the Bicester constituency – only the Evenlode valley of Stonesfield and Combe – so AONB ‘interests and concerns’ will be very low on the new MP’s agenda.
Also, if a new Cotswolds National Park is created, as has been mooted, the AONB status may be replaced by it and the boundaries of the new National Park will be settled. It may be a convenient time for a developer-friendly authority to leave us out and again an MP focused upon Bicester within the Ox-Cam Arc would have little interest in pressing our case to be included.
There are growing concerns about the water quality in the Evenlode River. The Evenlode will be insignificant in the new Bicester constituency so once again likely to be very low on the new MP’s agenda. We should remain in the Witney constituency so the Evenlode and Windrush catchment area can jointly be represented.
SUSTO believes Stonesfield residents look to Witney as their natural local centre, not Bicester, for shopping, the cinema, restaurants and health care, or Oxford especially for the latter. We will continue to go to the Witney minor injuries unit, the podiatry services, opticians and dentist etc. If you have a concern about those health care services you’ll need to write to your Bicester MP, yet the services will be in the Witney constituency. Will your new MP be as interested in improving Witney health care?
Public transport to Witney is poor, but at least it exists. There is no public transport to Bicester, other than going via Oxford. There is a natural divide created by the A44 and more importantly the M40. Again Stonesfield ‘interests and concerns’ will be very low on the new MP’s agenda.
For these reasons, and I’m sure there are many more, SUSTO believes Stonesfield should remain in the Witney constituency. If you feel the same, can I recommend you write to the Boundary Commission – by 2 August –expressing your opinion following this link: https://www.bcereviews.org.uk
Chair of Sustainable Stonesfield