Dorset Council has published a report recommending that four parishes making up the built-up area of Bridport should be served by one council.
The proposals were put forward in October by Bridport Town Council, as part of a Dorset-wide review of governance arrangements by Dorset Council. The main changes would see:
- A single council area incorporating most of the existing parishes of Allington, Bothenhampton & Walditch, Bradpole and Bridport;
- A total of 20 councillors, compared with 44 at present across the four parishes;
- Five wards and corresponding council committees within the new council area based on local identity;
- Inclusion of most of the Foundry Lea (Vearse Farm) development into the single council area;
- Retention of a separate rural parish of Symondsbury.
A working group of councillors from Dorset Council members has spent three months considering the Town Council’s submission, and those of neighbouring parish councils, along with nearly 300 individual representations from local residents. Their recommendation to proceed with the unification proposals acknowledges that the area is, in effect, a single larger parish with a strong sense of community cohesion. The report also found that local governance would be more effective and convenient under a single council, and that very local identities within Bridport would be retained by the creation of wards. Of the 300 individual responses, 73% favoured the Town Council’s submission.
Town Council Leader, Cllr Dave Rickard, said “We’re naturally pleased, although not surprised, that the report has accepted our proposals in full, and we hope Dorset Council will confirm them in due course. They will deliver better local government for Bridport, a stronger local voice, greater democracy, and fairness for all residents. At the same time we have included measures that will respect and protect the identities of traditional village centres within parished areas that have, over a long period, become part of the town of Bridport because of new development. Anyone concerned about this aspect need only look at West Bay, which has a fiercely strong identity but has been part of Bridport parish since the parish was formed.”
A meeting of Dorset Council on 15 February will consider whether to put the recommendations to a second consultation, ahead of a final decision in May 2022. Any changes agreed then would not take effect until the next local elections in May 2024. Cllr Rickard said “The way forward is very clear now and assuming common sense prevails, we will have two years from May to prepare for the change. It’s plenty of time to ensure a smooth transition, but now that we have a clear majority view in the town I would encourage all four councils to begin working together immediately, towards a common and unified goal of getting the best for Bridport residents.”
Mayor of Bridport Cllr Ian Bark said “As Mayor I attend events and engagements across the greater Bridport area, and I am a resident of Bothenhampton, in one of the parishes that would merge under these proposals. I can honestly say that I think of myself as being a Bridport resident, and so do the overwhelming majority of people I meet. My very local identity in Bothenhampton won’t change because of a change of parish boundaries – that’s not how people determine where they’re from. I do however think people recognise that a single council could achieve so much more for them than the current fragmented arrangements.”
Dorset Council’s draft recommendations can be viewed at https://moderngov.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/documents/b16494/Community%20Governance%20Review%20-%20Recommendation%204%20-%20Bridport%20Town%20Council%2015th-Feb-2022%2018.30%20Dorset%20.pdf?T=9
Full details of the Town Council’s submission can be viewed at https://www.bridport-tc.gov.uk/one-council-for-bridport-better-stronger-fairer/.