All change for many Suffolk and Essex MPs as constituency map is redrawn
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
The constituency map of Suffolk and Essex is heading for the most radical change ever if MPs back proposals put forward by the Boundary Commission for England.
The two counties have been put together in the latest proposals from the commission — Haverhill would be combined with part of the Braintree seat in a new constituency straddling the Suffolk/Essex border.
This is part of a national redrawing of boundaries that will see three new constituencies created in East Anglia.
The rest of the West Suffolk seat, currently held by Conservative Health Secretary Matt Hancock, would be combined with the town of Bury St Edmunds which is currently held by Jo Churchill.
A huge new North Suffolk seat is to be created, stretching from Bungay and villages to the north of Saxmundham to the east to Thurston and Honington in the west.
The Central Suffolk and North Ipswich seat held by Dr Dan Poulter will be split in two with the northern portion going into the North Suffolk seat while the area around Ipswich will be combined with Stowmarket and Needham Market.
Suffolk Coastal — held by Employment Secretary Dr Therese Coffey — loses Halesworth and nearby villages to north Suffolk, while Peter Aldous's Waveney seat loses Bungay to the new seat — but otherwise those seats are still clearly recognisable.
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The current Ipswich and South Suffolk constituencies held by Tom Hunt would be largely unchanged under the proposals.
There are limited changes to seats in north Essex, apart from the creation of the Halstead and Haverhill seat. The Essex part is currently represented by Braintree MP and Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly — the new Braintree seat will include the town and part of the new developments on the edge of Chelmsford.
Mr Hancock said he would not be commenting on the proposed changes — but his constituency home is in a village near Haverhill and it would not be a surprise if he opted to fight the border seat. The town of Halstead and the affluent villages nearby make it promising territory for the Tories.
Mrs Churchill could not be contacted for a comment — her current constituency includes Stowmarket and Needham Market as well as Bury.
From being at the far west of her current seat, Bury would be at the far east of the new seat that would also include Newmarket, Mildenhall and Brandon.
Dr Poulter said the new North Ipswich and Stowmarket seat would contain more than two thirds of his current electorate and he would be tempted to look at that if the changes went ahead — although he actually lives just in the northern section of the seat.
He said: "I know the Stowmarket and Needham Market area because I looked after voters in those towns when the previous MP for the area was ill and I know the area well. But these are very early days and things may change.
"However it is a bit like a Rubik's Cube. If you change one piece everything else has to change and I think the Boundary Commission will be well aware of that."
These proposals are the first draft of the planned changes by the Boundary Commission for England — they then have to go out for consultation, any amendments are then published and the final proposal then has to be voted on by Parliament in the summer of 2023.
If they are accepted, the new seats should be in place in time for the next general election which is expected to be held in May 2024.