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Residents survey results on a new Lower Coleview and Nythe Parish

Dale Heenan
  • On November 21, 2012
  • https://www.eastswindon.com

On September 10th, I finished writing up the results of the local survey which Councillor Richard Hurley and I carried out to local residents in Lower Coleview and Nythe. This is a copy of the letter sent to Swindon Borough Council setting out the case for a new Parish Council, and splitting away from Stratton Parish Council.

 

Dear Community Governance Review team,

Please accept this as a submission comment on the Community Governance Review for Covingham Parish Council, and Stratton St Margaret Parish Council.

As one of the elected Swindon Borough Councillors for the Covingham and Dorcan ward, which wholly includes Covingham Parish Council, I support Covingham Parish Council in retaining their existing size and electoral make up, with the addition of Bullfinch Close, Avocet Close, Moorhen close and Pheasant Close, Mallard Close.
This proposal involves a natural extension to the Parish boundary because it incorporates an area where residents can only reach their estate by the Bullfinch close access onto St Paul’s Drive, Covingham. The, residents see themselves as Covingham residents and have a Royal Mail Covingham address.
The additional properties are currently unparished, and are too small an area to be have an alternative electoral arrangements for the purposes of this Governance review.

This meets the three key measures that any parish council and local arrangement must satisfy by:

  • Reflecting community identity
  • Be effective and convenient
  • Take into account any other arrangements for that area

I am a resident of Coleview within Stratton St Margaret Parish Council, and would like to see the Parish Boundaries altered to allow the formation of a new Parish Council for Lower Coleview and Nythe because I believe this would be more representative and effective for the area and my neighbours.

As the Swindon Borough Councillor for the Covingham and Dorcan ward, I represent the areas of lower Coleview and Nythe within the Parish of Stratton St Margaret. I have conducted a survey of 2000 households in Polling District CDA and CDB, the results of this survey are included as appendix one, and a map of the discussed area is appendix two. A photocopy of each survey response is included as appendix three and is submitted direct to the Electoral Services office. This survey was delivered by myself and a colleague during August, and paid for by ourselves.

I believe that parish councils have an important role to play in terms of community empowerment at the local level and I want to ensure that parish governance within the town continues to be robust, representative and enabled to meet new challenges. There should be clarity and transparency for the areas which parish councils represent and that the electoral arrangements of parishes are appropriate, equitable and readily understood by local residents.

In undertaking a community governance review and assessing proposals put forward by the community, the Council needs to consider:

What are the existing communities with which residents identify

Is there an appetite within those communities to establish parish councils or alternative styles of community governance arrangement

Are the proposed communities of sufficient size to support a parish

What names should be used in the Community Governance Review to reflect the proposed parish council areas

Under the 2007 Act, local residents can petition Swindon Borough council for a community governance review to be undertaken, and this trigger is 10% of the residents in an area.
Swindon Borough Council is undertaking a community governance review of the whole borough, including all Parish Councils. However I hope that the 10% limit remains as threshold which shows significant local representation on this topic.
206 households have returned the survey and this equates to a response rate of 10.1%, from the 2031 total number of households..
With over 1 in 10 of Lower Coleview and Nythe households represented, I hope that this submission will receive a lot of weight in the recommendations of the Community Governance Review.
The resident survey tried to provide a clear, and fair, set of options for local residents to provide an unambiguous result, and did not contain any “loaded” questions.
% of households identified themselves as living in Coleview and Nythe, with
saying Stratton St Margaret. 83.5% of replies thought that a Coleview and Nythe Parish Council would better meet their community, while 16.46% wanted no change.
Appendix one demonstrates a cut clear result on which area people identified with. The question simply asked whether the household identified themselves as Coleview, Nythe or Stratton St Margaret.
This is a clear cut finding that the consulted residents do not view themselves as residents of Stratton St Margaret, but as residents living in the communities of Coleview and Nythe.
DCLG guidance states that “Parish councils continue to have two main roles: community representation and local administration. For both purposes it is desirable that a parish should reflect a distinctive and recognisable community of place, with its own sense of identity. The views of local communities and inhabitants are of central importance.
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The identification of a community is not a precise or rigid matter. The pattern of daily life in each of the existing communities, the local centres for education and child care, shopping, community activities, worship, leisure pursuits, transport facilities and means of communication generally will have an influence. However, the focus of people’s day-to-day activities may not be reflected in their feeling of community identity. For instance, historic loyalty may be to a town but the local community of interest and social focus “
Coleview and Nythe are distinctive from Stratton St Margaret on a number of these important measures.
Nythe Shopping Parade is centrally placed within Nythe, and is approximately half way along the main road called The Drive. Within 100m is Nylands school, Nythe Community Centre and the Nylands school.  On the north edge of Nythe are playing fields, a rugby club and multi use play area.
Residents of Nythe also have a Royal Mail address in the format,
house number, street
Nythe
Swindon
Postcode
All of these points demonstrate that Nythe is a separate and distinct community according to DCLG guidance, and is community which residents self identify with.
The focus in Coleview is Coleview Community Centre, with a school next door and a Shopping Parade within 50m.
Residents of Coleview have a Royal Mail address in the format,
house number, street
Coleview
Swindon
Postcode
I also know from my house deeds that the area is designated as Coleview “within the parish of Stratton St Margaret”.
Bus companies serve the local area, Thamesdown Transport and Stagecoach, and both list Coleview and Nythe as stops.
If the DCLG Community Governance Review guidance is to be followed then “a parish should reflect a distinctive and recognisable community of place, with its own sense of identity. The views of local communities and inhabitants are of central importance“, and the Coleview and Nythe should be allowed their own Parish Council.
The response rate of 10.1% of all households in CDA and CDB polling districts demonstrates that the survey reflected community views. To show whether there was appetite for change the question was asked:
Should Stratton St Margaret boundaries remain unchanged for the next 10 to 15 years.
This question was aimed at being completely unbiased and required residents to give a straight yes or no answer. With a positive Yes answer representing no change.
The result was that 78.8% wanted the Stratton Parish boundaries to change, and shows the overwhelming feeling is that the boundaries should change. 21.2% wished the current boundaries to remain.
A minority of residents did not complete this answer, or indicated that they did not wish to see any form of Parish Council representing them or to join with Covingham Parish Council.
A follow up question asked residents to state whether they thought a Coleview and Nythe Parish Council, or Stratton St Margaret Parish Council would best serve the identity and interests of Coleview and Nythe.

A similar clear cut result shows 83.5% of residents believe a Coleview and Nythe Parish Council would best represent them and be more effective than Stratton St Margaret Parish Council.

The DCLG guidance states “One of the characteristics of a sustainable community is the desire for a community to be well run with effective and inclusive participation, representation and leadership. This means:

a) representative, accountable governance systems which both facilitate strategic, visionary leadership and enable inclusive, active and effective participation by individuals and organisations; and

b) effective engagement with the community at neighbourhood level including capacity building to develop the community’s skills, knowledge and confidence”

Every Parish Council, except one, has considered its response to the Community Governance Review at a public meeting to allowed member of the public to attend,  listen and take part in their debate. For example, Covingham Parish Council on Monday 3rd September.

In contrast, Stratton Parish Council has not considered this matter in public and instead it appears the issue was delegated to its Finance Committee to draft and submit. The Finance committee excluded the general public from all its discussions about the Governance Review, including details of an alleged roadshow, because “it was not in the public interest” and used legislation to hold the meetings in secret. The Clerk has informed me in writing that this occurred because the topic is “controversial”. To hold these kind of matters in secret demonstrates that the Parish Council is not effective or appropriate, and does not involve a representative and accountable form of governance for the residents of Coleview and Nythe.

No resident has been provided with an opportunity to agree or disagree with Stratton Parish Council’s submission, have not taken part or heard any deliberation and the Parish Council has not voted on its official reply.

The “consultation” undertaken by Stratton Parish Council only presented negative consequences of any change, except for its preferred approach of remaining as it is or expanding in size!

These actions are an example of where the existing governance is not encouraging inclusive, active and effective participation with residents. I therefore hope that comments from Stratton St Margaret Parish Council carry little weight on the issue of Coleview and Nythe.

When considering whether Stratton St Margaret Parish Council is effective, I would also highlight the needlessly bureaucratic nature of the organisation. The parish council employs a full time clerk earning a salary 50% greater than most Parish Councils in Swindon, like Covingham Parish, raise from households through their annual precept. In addition, the Parish Finance Committee authorised the expenditure of nearly £10,000 on a Governance roadshow which amounts to one third of the annual other Parishes, like Covingham Parish Council.

Annual statistics by DCLG shows that the national average Band D Parish precept in 2011/12 for a parish council was £45.88. In comparison Stratton Parish precept was £107.48

By splitting the parish and ensuring it is more locally focused and representative for Coleview and Nythe residents, there are significant opportunities for streamlining and removing this kind of expenditure. For example, being more effective through a part time clerk.

The effectiveness of Stratton parish can also be highlighted in the provision of services like allotments. The existing waiting list for allotments in Stratton St Margaret is in excess of five years.

93.8% of replies agreed that “a local Parish Council should prioritize dealing with allotments, bus shelters, litter and open space at a fair and affordable parish tax rate”. Stratton St Margaret Parish Councils own actions should that this simply isn’t meeting the residents reasonable expectation.

There are enormous variations in the size of parishes across the country, however most parishes have a population below 12,000 residents and the DCLG guidance on Community Governance Review’s states that 80% of Parish Council’s represent less than 2,500 residents.

According to Swindon Borough Council electoral figures, a lower Coleview and Nythe Parish would contain 2031 households and 3766 residents. This would mean a parish based on these two communities would be in the top 20% in parish council size.

Bishopstone277553Blunsdon St Andrew54839597Castle Eaton102198Chiseldon10962194Covingham15823021Hannington102223Haydon Wick873515701Highworth36936690Inglesham5289Liddington288338South Marston340708Stanton Fitzwarren89182Stratton St Margaret1010018551Wanborough7491555Stratton St Margaret806914785Lower Coleview & Nythe20313766A Lower Coleview & Nythe Parish Council covering the CDA/CDB polling districts would be the fourth largest Parish Council in the borough of Swindon.

On considering whether the community has capacity to be a viable entity, I feel it is important to highlight that six residents indicated they would like to stand a parish councillor for Coleview and Nythe in the future. And a further 31 expressed an interest that they might like to stand for election as a Parish Councillor.

According to Stratton St Margaret Parish Council, there are 1637.1

Band D equivalent properties in Lower Coleview and Nythe.

For revenue purposes on the question of viability, assuming the Swindon Borough Council Special Expense level is the minimum amount charged to households this would raise approximately £55,661. A precept set at the national parish average would raise £73,665, while the current Stratton St Margaret Parish Council rate would raise in the region of £171,895 – atleast a £100,000 difference between even the national average and the current precept.

Section 94 of the 2007 Act applies to this aspect of the governance review because it recommends that a parish should have a council if it has 1000 or more electors as a minimum threshold. With 3766 residents/electors, it is clear that the Act would recognise a Parish Council of this size as a viable entity.

On electoral arrangements for the parish council, I would like to see either one ward, or bearing in mind the distinctive nature of Coleview and Nythe, two parish wards established. One could cover Lower Coleview with 870 households and 1615 electors, and the other for Nythe with 1090 households and 2105 electors.

The 1972 Act, requires atleast 5 councillors in a Parish Council. While Research by the Aston Business School Parish and Town Councils in England (HMSO, 1992), found that the typical parish council representing less than 500 people had between 5 and 8 councillors; those between 501 and 2,500 had 6 to 12 councillors;

Using this as an example base, the Lower Coleview and Nythe Parish could have five or six parish Councillors. With the existing parish ward arrangement having four parish Councillors, this proposal would be a more representative form of local democracy.

Six residents have indicated they would stand a parish councillor for Coleview and Nythe in the future, while another 31 expressed an interest that they might like to stand for election.

Based on the local communities and the long standing electoral arrangement, I would like the name to be the “Lower Coleview and Nythe Parish Council.”

The Community Governance Review needs to consider what geographical area any parish would potentially cover, and again DCLG indicates “It could but should not exclusively consider ward and neighbourhood boundaries which can be defined. Geographical boundaries are not the only consideration in considering an area which can be parished. The general rule should be that the parish is based on an area which reflects community identity and interest and which is of a size which is viable as an administrative unit of local government.”

and, “As far as boundaries between parishes are concerned, these should reflect the “no-man’s land” between communities represented by areas of low population or barriers such as rivers, roads or railways. They need to be, and be likely to remain, easily identifiable. For instance, factors to consider include parks and recreation grounds which sometimes provide natural breaks between communities but they can equally act as focal points. A single community would be unlikely to straddle a river where there are no crossing points, or a large area of moor land or marshland. Another example might be where a community appeared to be divided by a motorway (unless connected by walkways at each end). Whatever boundaries are selected they need to be, and be likely to remain, easily identifiable. “
To address these criteria, the map in appendix three shows that Nythe is physically separated from Stratton St Margaret by playing fields, Greenbridge Industrial site, Greenbridge Retail park and Oxford road. Nythe is also bounded on its eastern edge by Dorcan Way which follows the north/south direction of the River Cole before it passes West/East beside Covingham Drive. The straight line distance between the most northern property in Nythe to the most southern property on Oxford Road is x miles.
The map in appendix three also shows that Coleview is bounded by Dorcan Way on its western edge, and Merlin Way on its eastern edge. The South edge is Covingham Drive. The River Cole tracks down from the Greenbridge/Oxford Road junction in its north west corner, follows a north/south route to Piccadilly roundabout before changing course to a West/East route along Covingham Drive. Coleview is therefore separated on its West and Southern edge by the River Cole.
Oxford Road is a clear boundary between Stratton St Margaret and Coleview, however, my submission covers CDA and the area called Lower Coleview. This has Gayton Road and Sywell Road as the key separating feature.
82.8% of households agreed that the Greenbridge estate and Oxford road were natural barriers to Stratton St Margaret. The explanatory wording of this question is lifted direct from DCLG guidance.
The parish of Stratton St Margaret was once a small village but has changed over time to include an area covering over 21,000 residents.  The parish boundaries have changed before and will change again at some future moment. For example, the community of Gorse Hill was in the Parish of Stratton St Margaret until 1890.
Parishes are traditionally the areas served by a local church and originally for ecclesiastical matters. Over time this has changed as the administrative/civil parishes developed. The original parish of Stratton St Margaret is no longer ecclesiastical and is purely an administrative function.
Nythe was built in the 1960’s and the current Stratton St Margaret Parish Council was formed in 1974. Since 1974, Stratton St Margaret has had a parish ward called “Lower Coleview and Nythe” as a separate electoral division.
The same year saw the Thamesdown district of Wiltshire formed to include Swindon and Highworth. Thamesdown had a Stratton St Margaret, Coleview and Nythe ward covering lower Coleview and Nythe, Stratton St Margaret, St Margaret for Stratton and Coleview and Stratton St Margaret, St Philip for the upper Stratton area, plus a Swindon Covingham ward.

When Swindon Borough Council became administratively independent from Wiltshire County Council in 1997, the ward of Covingham and Nythe was created. This borough council ward included the Thamesdown Stratton St Margaret, Coleview and Nythe and Swindon Covingham wards so all of the lower Coleview and Nythe ward and the Covingham estate. The northern edge of the Covingham and Nythe borough ward followed the north edge of Nythe and north edge of Lower Coleview following the Gayton road/Sywell road line.

This Community Governance Review is partly taking place as a result of the Swindon Borough Council electoral ward review completed in 2011, and all out elections occurred in May 2012. The Covingham and Nythe ward was altered to become the Covingham and Dorcan ward but the northern edge of Nythe and Lower Coleview remained unchanged.

Since 1997, there has been a Stratton St Margaret borough council ward as a distinct electoral arrangement. In 2012, this changed again to the Stratton and South Marston ward.

For 15 years the Swindon Borough Council electoral arrangements have split Stratton St Margaret between the wards of Covingham and Nythe/Covingham and Dorcan, and Stratton St Margaret/Stratton and South Marston. This Governance review is therefore an ideal opportunity to resolve this situation by ensuring parish councils do not cross borough council ward boundaries, where there is a clear case of community self identification and natural features and boundaries.

The distinction of lower Coleview and Nythe has existed for atleast 38 years at a Parish and County/Unitary level, and this submission simply asks that this well known area forms its own parish council.

82.8% of households agreed that “the areas covered by Parish Councils should try to reflect the same boundaries as Swindon Borough Council wards.” Again this adds evidence to the proposed to separate Lower Coleview and Nythe along existing Unitary boundaries to form their own parish.

The only concern raised by residents about potential Parish Council changes was the effect this would have on the burial of relatives. This is a feature which Stratton St Margaret Parish Council has highlighted to residents as a reason to continue the status quo.

As part of the Governance review, Stratton St Margaret Parish Council has discussed and negotiated with Covingham Parish Council to allow Covingham residents burial rights to the Stratton cemeteries.

Clearly this is subject that needs to be sensitively respected, so if the proposed parish change was considered at the next stage, I would request that all existing lower Coleview and Nythe residents should continue to have same rights of interment and visitation.

I, and many residents, would like to see a Lower Coleview and Nythe parish council formed it would better reflect community identity, be a more effective and convenient form of parish governance.
87.5% of households identified themselves as living in Coleview and Nythe, and 84.2% thought that a Coleview and Nythe Parish Council would better meet their community.
Change to Stratton St Margaret parish boundaries is supported by 79.6% of residents so if a lower Coleview and Nythe parish is not acceptable, then an alternative solution must be considered by Swindon Borough Council.
The new Parish would be a viable entity for providing services through a precept, it is viable as an electoral arrangement, and would be the fourth largest parish council size in Swindon, and in the top 20% of parish sizes in the country.
With over 1 in 10 of Lower Coleview and Nythe households represented in this submission, I hope that the proposal is supported and receive weight in the stage one recommendation’s.

Do you consider yourself a resident of Stratton St Margaret, Coleview or Nythe?

Do you think the identity and interests of Coleview and Nythe are best served by? Stratton St Margaret Parish Council, A Coleview and Nythe Parish Council

Do you want Stratton Parish Councils boundaries to remain unchanged for another 10 to 15 years?

Do you agree that the area covered by Parish Councils should try to reflect the same boundaries as Swindon Borough Council wards?

Boundaries between parishes are meant to reflect areas of low population, barriers like roads or railways and parks and fields, which provide a natural break between communities. Do you agree that Coleview and Nythe is naturally separated from Stratton St Margaret by the Greenbridge Estate and Oxford Road?

Do you agree that a local Parish Council should prioritize dealing with allotments, bus shelters, litter, open space at a fair and affordable parish tax rate.

If there was a Coleview and Nythe Parish would you be interested in becoming a parish Councillor?

Appendix Two – area map

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