A proposal for Stoke Lodge and The Common to split from Patchway and form a new parish has received overwhelming support from residents in a public consultation conducted by South Gloucestershire Council (SGC).
The consultation was triggered after more than 500 people in the area east of the A38 signed a petition calling for the formation of a new parish that would be completely independent of Patchway.
Asked if they would prefer to form a new parish, join with another neighbouring parish (i.e. Bradley Stoke or Stoke Gifford) or maintain the status quo, more than 80% of respondents indicated their preference for a new parish.
There were 894 leaflets issued as part of the consultation and 729 responses were received, a response rate of more than 80%. One leaflet was sent to each household, although all residents of voting age were entitled to respond individually.
The three Conservative Town Councillors that represent the Stoke Lodge area on Patchway Town Council started the petition for a new parish last year because they felt that an unfair proportion of the local rates raised from their area was being spent in other parts of Patchway.
Andy Alsop, one of the Stoke Lodge Councillors, told The Journal:
“This landslide consultation result is tremendous.”
“Stoke Lodge and The Common residents have expressed, in their hundreds, how they want their own parish council to better reflect their community. This will enable the residents to have a say on how their precept is spent; which has not always been the case.”
“Labour-run Patchway Town Council charges the second highest council tax in South Gloucestershire – a household living here in a Band D property will pay over £100 more every year than the average for a South Glos Band D property.”
“We have always believed that Stoke Lodge and The Common is a distinct community that deserves fair representation and taxation and this will be achieved by the formation of its own parish council, which is why we have helped petition for this review.”
“Thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign so far – there is still more to do to ensure that a new parish council comes into being at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Labour Councillors representing other wards in Patchway claimed the Stoke Lodge petition was only been instigated “as a result of poor election results on the part of the local Conservative Party in Patchway and their desire to seek a more favourable power-base”. They have also been critical of the fact that the Stoke Lodge Councillors refused to take up places on any of the Town Council’s Committees following the May 2011 elections.
Cllr Chris Mills (Labour), Chair of Patchway Town Council, said:
“Whilst as a Patchway Town Councillor, I would have liked to see Patchway remain as a single parish, the residents of Stoke Lodge and the common have spoken, and must be listened to, I wish them every success with the new parish of Stoke Lodge and Patchway Common.”
Submission of the petition for a new Stoke Lodge parish triggered a Community Governance Review across the whole of South Gloucestershire. The full results of the initial public consultations conducted as part of the review are contained in a report prepared for next week’s meeting of SGC’s Regulatory Committee. Whilst a second round of consultation will now be conducted in some areas, officers are recommending that a new parish be formed for Stoke Lodge and The Common without any further consultation. In the report, they state:
“In Stoke Lodge it is not necessary to proceed to a second stage of consultation. The electoral arrangements for the new parish will be relatively simple and stakeholders will have the opportunity to comment as the detailed work progresses.”
Curiously, despite the Stoke Lodge consultation leaflet stating that SGC “would need to be satisfied that any new parish council would be large enough to be viable”, the officer report makes no assessment of this criterion. With 1,713 electors, a new Stoke Lodge parish would rank mid-table in size amongst the (currently) 46 parishes in South Gloucestershire, where the largest parish (Yate) has 17,123 electors and the smallest (Hill) has 84.
Assuming the Committee agrees to the current proposals, SGC’s Full Council will be asked to approve a final set of proposals in May 2013, after the second round of consultation has been completed in other areas of the District.
The first elections to the new parish of Stoke Lodge and The Common are expected to take place in May 2015.
Stoke Lodge independence campaigners (from left): Cllr Sarah Pomfret, Cllr Andy Alsop, Tracey Harrison Ashe and Cllr Brian Hopkinson.