Welcome and farewell to parishes

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Boundary changes and the impact of new fossil fuel regulations on rural areas – a busy month for MP Chris Loder

Chris Loder MP

The Parliamentary Boundary Commission has just announced its final recommendations for changes*. Initially, there was huge disquiet from the Cerne and Piddle Valleys (who did not want to be moved from West into North Dorset). To think that the Cerne Giant was going to be in North Dorset was incomprehensible!
But equally, scores of people from Upwey and Broadwey did not want to move from South Dorset! And I know that the thought of Minterne Magna and Sydling St Nicholas being in the same constituency as Verwood – but not Dorchester – was nonsensical.
However, the beautiful parishes of Glanvilles Wootton, Ansty and Hilton will all now be welcomed into West Dorset from the next General Election, while it is farewell to Puddletown in the north and Chickerell to the south.
It took quite a lot to make the case successfully to the Boundary Commission – both Richard Drax and I constantly made representations on behalf of constituents to change the original recommendations. I was sorry to read the official response of the Liberal Democrats who supported the Cerne and Piddle valleys being moved out of West Dorset; it is duplicitous of their parliamentary candidate to claim on Twitter last week that he was really pleased that Cerne Abbas was staying in West Dorset, when he supported the original proposal tenaciously.

A busy month
Since my last column, I’ve met with the Rail Minister, Huw Merriman, to discuss the ongoing poor performance of the West of England line. Traversing the Blackmore Vale itself, the line frankly deserves greater attention. In particular, I raised with the Minister the performance of the line’s operators – South Western Railway and Great Western Railway – and the need for better services to and from West Dorset.
I’ve also met with the Education Minister, Nick Gibb, to discuss the provision of local education here in West Dorset. I was particularly pleased to raise my specific concerns around the provision of agricultural education, which more often than not does not receive the funding or attention it deserves.
Opportunities for land-based education are vitally important, especially in rural agricultural areas, and I am so glad that we have Kingston Maurward College here in West Dorset (one of the main providers for the region). My concern is that land-based education, typically the more vocational and hands-on courses, are not receiving the same attention as more mainstream institutions.

Opinions needed
In other news, it may surprise you to know that 51 per cent of properties in West Dorset don’t have access to the gas grid – the highest proportion in the county. The unique infrastructure of the constituency and the sparsity of settlements means that many households have no choice but to use alternative fuels such as heating oil, LPG or kiln-dried logs.
In some of the more rural areas like the Chalk valleys and the Marshwood Vale, more than 95 per cent of properties do not have access to mains gas, which puts us in a unique position of rural need.
Pending consultation, the Government’s current proposal is to phase out the installation of high carbon fossil fuel heating systems from 2026.
I have some reservations about this approach – it needs to better reflect rural needs.
The rural voice and lifestyle risk being disproportionately affected.
For me to better represent your views, I would welcome your feedback on rural energy and the Government’s current proposals – and what you’d like to see. Please do send your thoughts and comments via my website here: chrisloder.co.uk

*To understand the changes, you can see an interactive before/after map here – Ed)

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