What will happen to St Peter’s Ward? Boundary Commission proposals

 

Proposed new wards  for Islington

Serious issues for St Peter’s Ward

  1. From time to time the Local Government Boundary Commission, an independent body, reviews Councils’ number and boundaries of wards to deal with population/electorate changes. Islington was last reviewed in 1999. A new review is under way though it has had little publicity. The consultation finishes on Monday 7 October so the Commission must have everyone’s thoughts by then.
  2. There are currently 16 wards in Islington of which our St Peter’s is one. The Commission’s review criteria are : improving electoral equality (electors per Councillor); wards to reflect community identity; supporting effective and convenient local government. The Commission must try to recommend strong, clearly identifiable boundaries for wards.
  3. A key Commission proposal, supported by the Council’s Labour Group, is that Islington should have 51 rather than the present 48 Councillors (reflecting projected population/electorate increase by 2024) and that therefore ward numbers should increase from 16 to 17, each ward having three Councillors. In theory a ward could have two Councillors (and therefore be smaller) or four (and therefore be larger) but the Commission have clearly indicated that they want to see 3 Councillor wards of roughly the same electorate number. The number of Islington electors in 2024 is estimated at 168,368 (population estimate is 248,000), therefore 51 Councillors would represent on average 3,300 electors each, and therefore each ward would average about 10,000 electors. In setting ward boundaries the Commission is aiming for no more than a 10% variance from that average.
  4. There is a strong correlation between the Islington Labour Group’s submission to the Commission and the Commission’s current proposals. Many ward boundaries in Islington would only change marginally as a result of this review. The impact on St Peter’s ward is the most significant. The table below summarises the key electorate changes which help set the context for the proposed changes to our ward.
Ward 2019 electorate 2024 electorate
Bunhill 9834 14463
Clerkenwell 7523 9591
St Mary’s 8689 9786
St Peter’s 9117 10922

 

  1. Bunhill is at the bottom right/southeast of Islington including the Old Street area and bordering The City. Clerkenwell is to the west of Bunhill and both wards have Pentonville Road/City Road as their northern boundaries. St Mary’s is to the north of St Peter’s, going up to Highbury Corner and the southern part of Holloway Road west. The key issue is the very high electorate increase estimated for Bunhill. There are also significant increases in, for example, Highbury West (not nearly as high as Bunhill) and these drive the consequent proposals to even out ward electorates and create a new ward, Central ward. St Peter’s electorate numbers themselves do not require changes, nor do those for St Mary’s and Clerkenwell. The Commission’s proposals and consequences for St Peter’s are illustrated on the map below.
  2. The proposed new Central ward, not shown, is created from the northern half of the current St Mary’s plus part of Caledonian ward to the west including the Pentonville prison area, HM Prison can just be seen on the map. The current Barnsbury ward immediately to the west of St Mary’s would be unchanged. St Mary’s having lost a large part to help create the new Central ward would gain a large part of St Peter’s, particularly the Arlington area. St Peter’s boundary here would cease to be Essex Road and Rotherfield Street and would instead become St Peter’s St/Rheidol Terrace/Prebend St, turning south along the eastern side of Packington Estate.
  1. To maintain our St Peter’s ward electorate our southern boundary would not be City Road but instead move further south to Lever Street in Bunhill.
  2. So, this radical change to St Peter’s is caused by the creation of the new Central ward by using the northern part of St Mary’s, by St Mary’s ward moving south and absorbing a large part of St Peter’s, and St Peter’s in turn taking part of Bunhill. The reduced size of Bunhill is justified by the enormous estimated increase in Bunhill’s densification/population. The estimated electoral population of Bunhill in 2024 is 14,500 which would make it by far the most populous ward in Islington if nothing changed, and also well above the requirement for roughly 3,300 electors per Cllr. Thus the radical proposed dismembering of St Peter’s.

The Problems

 

  1. First, St Peter’s would lose natural and obvious boundaries – Essex Road, Rotherfield Street, and City Road’.
  1. Second, there is no obvious shared community between those living north and south   of   City Road, City Road being one of the busiest roads in central London.

 

  1. Third, there is a strong shared community interest between those living around Packington Estate. This for example is demonstrated by the excellent links between the various neighbourhood associations – Duncan Terrace, Angel, Arlington, and others.
  2. Fourth, the current Ward Partnership meetings with Councillors, and the Police Panel on safer neighbourhood issues work well, again reflecting shared community  These would be challenged.
  3. Fifth, the proposed new boundary bizarrely removes St James’ Church from our area and we would lose the link with our parish and with this active church. The new boundary also removes our secondary school, COLAI, from our area. It cuts Union Square in half with the eastern half now becoming part of the new St Mary’s.
  4. Sixth, it is very difficult to find current developments in the present Bunhill which would lead to such a large electorate increase over the next few years. The obvious active development is 250 City Road on City Road’s southern side and opposite the existing two towers at the end of City Road Basin. Here an additional two towers are planned (one is now being built), together with lower rise developments. A total of 930 apartments are planned which suggests a maximum additional electorate of 1500/1600. There are no other major developments that we know of. We can identify some infill sites under way in Bunhill adding up to about 250 dwellings. So we find it difficult to see how the Bunhill electorate would be more than about 12,000 in 2024 as opposed to the Commission’s 14,500 estimate. We have asked the Council to summarise their reasoning on Bunhill’s projected electorate (the Commission rely on local authority population/electorate estimates).

 

Some Solutions

  1. Much depends on the reliability of the Bunhill electorate projection. The current projection accounts for about 40% of the borough’s electorate increase, and therefore is crucial to the justification for an additional ward, and therefore the impact on St Peter’s.

 

  1. It is arguable that there would be a shared community interest amongst the residents of the new towers complex at City Road Basin and 250 City Road on the southern side. 250 City Road could be straightforwardly incorporated into St Peter’s. To maintain electorate balance St Peter’s north west boundary could be New North Road, losing the electorate between New North Road and Rotherfield Street to Canonbury ward.

 

  1. Clerkenwell remains a relatively small ward (projected to be 9,600) and so modest changes to the Bunhill/Clerkenwell boundary to add about 1000 electors to Clerkenwell from Bunhill would help maintain electorate balance.

 

  1. It is bizarre for St Peter’s to lose its parish church, St James (technically called St James with St Peter), its secondary school, and for Union Square to be divided. If a new ward is required then there are many other solutions than simply losing a large part of the current St Peter’s ward to a new St Mary’s, especially if the electorate increase for Bunhill is exaggerated.

 

  1. If something like the Commission’s approach is nevertheless imposed then a less damaging modification would be for a new St Peter’s/St Mary’s boundary to follow St Peter’s St, Raleigh St (immediately west of the COLAI school), Packington St, Popham/Bishop St (to incorporate St James Church), Coleman Fields, Prebend St, Canon St, whole of Union Sq, eastern side of Packington Estate. Any division from the Arlington area is damaging and arbitrary but this is better than the Commission proposal and does not significantly impact on electoral balance.

 

  1. If the Commission maintain their view on Bunhill electoral projections then it is equally plausible to start again and redraw the boundary between Bunhill and Clerkenwell, taking 4000 electors into Clerkenwell. The northern part of Clerkenwell would then help form a new ward straddling Pentonville Road together with parts of the Kings Cross area/northern side of Pentonville Road (the southern parts of Caledonian and Barnsbury wards). To maintain electoral balance Barnsbury would incorporate part of St Mary’s. If Canonbury then incorporated the part of St Peter’s between New North Road and Rotherfield Street, and St Mary’s incorporates part of Canonbury, electoral balance would be reasonably maintained. Clearly any proposal to create a new ward has knock-on and ripple impacts. For St Peter’s the current Commission’s proposal impacts are particularly damaging.

 

  1. To conclude, the Commission are not following their own guidelines on sensible boundaries and encouraging/reflecting neighbourhood cohesion if these proposals for St Peter’s go ahead. The Commission’s proposals derive from electorate increases for Bunhill which seem implausible. There are sensible ways to help even out electorate numbers, eg by St Peter’s absorbing the 250 City Road development. The proposed St Mary’s/St Peter’s boundary is particularly perverse with the loss of our secondary school, losing our active parish church, dividing Union Square. It would be reasonable to ask the Commission to look again about how to create a new ward if that is necessary, starting with significant changes to the Bunhill/Clerkenwell boundary and then making amendments to the Barnsbury and Caledonian southern boundaries

 

  1. The Angel Association will try and clarify asap the basis for the Bunhill electorate projections.

 

  1. You are invited to draw on the above points and we hope that there will be many comments/observations made to the Commission by Monday 7 October. The Commission’s detailed proposals can be found by entering LGBCE (local government boundary commission for England) and following the link to LB Islington review. The Commission’s portal for comments is at http://www.lgbce.org.uk/media/have-your-say-on-new-political-map-of-islington…

 

Angel Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Angel Association will try and clarify asap the basis for the Bunhill electorate projections.

 

  1. You are invited to draw on the above points and we hope that there will be many comments/observations made to the Commission by Monday 7 October. The Commission’s detailed proposals can be found by entering LGBCE (local government boundary commission for England) and following the link to LB Islington review. The Commission’s portal for comments is at http://www.lgbce.org.uk/media/have-your-say-on-new-political-map-of-islington…

 

Angel Association