Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge to be split in proposed changes to political boundaries

    PROPOSALS to reshape political constituency boundaries have not been endorsed by local MPs. Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells constituencies would be reshaped and expanded, while Wealden would be lost, under plans to reduce the number of members of Parliament from 650 to 600.

    Whitehall has commissioned the independent Boundary Commission to hold a consultation for the changes which would come into force in time for the 2022 election with the intention of cutting costs.

    But critics have argued the reforms would give an overall electoral advantage to the Conservative Party and make constituencies too large. Under the plans Tunbridge Wells would be remodelled to include Crowborough and border Uckfield but would lose Brenchley to the new Mid-Kent and Ticehurst constituency.

    Tonbridge constituency would grow to accommodate Southborough and Capel but would lose West Malling and King’s Hill, where the town’s council offices are based. Wealden would be swallowed by Mid-Kent and Ticehurst, Lewes and the newly created Tunbridge
    Wells and Crowborough.

    Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, said: “Tunbridge Wells has always had a very strong
    identity yet the current proposals would split it into three different constituencies.

    “For example it seems strange for Langton Green to be in a different constituency from
    Rusthall.

    “It is absolutely right that constituencies should be equally-sized, but there is a long way to go before any particular new boundaries are adopted.

    “The current proposals raise some important anomalies which can be addressed in the
    consultation.”

    With Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Wealden all safe seats for the Conservatives there would be little likelihood the changes would lead to the Tories losing seats.

    However, the independently drawn up map by the Boundary Commission for England, makes no reference to politicians automatically picking up the seats.

    Nus Ghani has been tipped as a possible future Conservative cabinet member, but the change could force her to move to another area.

    She said: “Of course, I am happy to represent the Wealden constituency as it stands today, but if the Boundary Commission’s proposals are approved in this parliamentary timetable, my seat is set to become Crowborough and Tunbridge Wells for the 2022 election.

    “I will continue to serve all of Wealden to the best of my abilities and I will closely monitor the progress of the boundary proposals through the consultation and legislative phases.” All constituencies will have between 71,031 and 78,507 voters under plans.

    Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge, did not wish to comment. His office encouraged everyone to respond to the consultation which can be accessed online by visiting www.bce2018.org.uk before the consultation closes on December 11.

    After looking at whether any more changes need to be made, in September 2018 the commission will make final recommendations in a report published and presented to the Parliament. Electoral boundary changes have been on the cards since the idea was first presented in 2011.

    Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells constituencies have existed within their current boundaries since 1974. Wealden was created in 1983.

    All three constituencies have only ever had Conservative MPs.