No merger for West Hanningfield polling districts

Plans to merge two polling districts will not be implemented in the immediate future after concerns it would result in residents in the area choosing not to participate in elections.

The recommendation for West Hanningfield in Chelmsford were among nine polling station under review to ensure voting in person is kept as accessible as possible.

Instead, polling districts West Hanningfield Village and West Hanningfield Temple Grove will remain separate with the polling venues being St Peters Primary School and a temporary demountable building.

The situation will be kept under review. The current polling place for West Hanningfield Village is the village hall. However, the parish council had advised that the village hall is closed for an undetermined duration, potentially permanently.

St Peter’s School’s hall was considered a place to merge the two polling districts. But during the consultation, both a ward councillor and the parish council raised concerns that it would result in residents in this area choosing not to participate in elections, due to the proximity of the venue and lack of access to transport.

Several other polling districts have been reviewed by Chelmsford City Council’s governance committee to check the interest of democracy is being served.

Voting will continue at Chelmsford County High School for Girls (CCHS) for The Avenues polling district until a suitable alternative can be found elsewhere. A room within Anglia Ruskin University campus was considered but not deemed appropriate due to being outside of the polling district.

Chelmer Housing Partnership (CHP) has also been approached to establish whether they have a suitable venue within the district that may be able to accommodate polling. This is currently being assessed.

St John Payne School remains the allocated polling place for the Woodhall polling district. The Acting Returning Officer is “sympathetic” to the disruption caused.

However alternative polling places cannot be considered until a response has been received from other venues within the polling district – the only other venue that had been identified as possibly being able to accommodate polling in the area is the Congregation of Yahweh. The council have approached the organisation to discuss this further but has not been able to open discussions.

The polling station will return to Newlands Spring Community Centre for the North Melbourne polling district. North Melbourne Library was used as an alternate location while the community centre was being renovated.

North Avenue Youth Centre will remain the designated polling place for the  Boarded Barns polling district. Collingwood Primary School will remain the polling station for Collingwood.

Larkrise Primary School will remain the polling place for the Dorset Avenue polling district. A response was received from Larkrise school in opposition to this proposal, suggesting that another venue was found. Unfortunately, no improved alternatives were suggested.

Life Church will remain the polling place for the Goldlay polling district. Mildmay Primary School will remain the polling station for Mildmay polling district, until the work is completed at Tile Kiln Church, at which point the situation should be reviewed.

Chairman of the Governance committee Chris Davidson said: “The Governance committee received this report and accepted the recommendation and we are grateful for the officer for doing this review. It is important that in the interests of democracy that we have appropriate arrangements that enable people to vote in person.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter