We have just been notified that Redbridge Council is to have a Ward Boundary review. This is intended to equalise, in so far as is possible, the number of residents on the electoral list for each ward – since the last review the population in some wards has risen far more than others.
The figures for each ward are available as they stand now, on the current electoral list for 2016 and are projected forward to 2021. The obvious problem here is that our current Local Development Plan expires in 2017 and the new one, which really should have been in place back in 2013, is still undergoing consideration out of sight in the bowels of the Town Hall.
So how can the boundary review make any sensible recommendations when we don’t know, as yet, where all the new housing is going to be located? Even if Redbridge council bites the bullet and publishes the new plan, say this coming summer, they still have to get it past a public consultation, the planning inspectorate and the new London Mayor. So, until it is finalised a ward boundary review is frankly a waste of time and taxpayers money.
However, as usual, there is room for some strategic, outside-the-box thinking. Instead of moving the ward boundaries, the alternative is to locate the new housing in those wards with the greatest negative variance, that is, those wards that are at present under populated compared to the others.
Let’s have a look at where they are. In order: Monkhams (-12%), Roding (-8.7%), Church End (-8%), Bridge (-7%), Wanstead (-6%) and Snaresbrook (-5%).
Do you see a pattern here? All 6 wards are in the west of the borough – and one of the options that was on the table (and as far as we know is still a possibility) for the Local Development Plan was the Wanstead / Woodford Corridor.
Failing that, because all six wards are located together, and largely separated from the east by the Roding valley, the scope for boundary changes that would equalise these wards with the rest of the borough is very limited. So the only workable option I can see is to reduce the number of wards in the west to five.
This would then give the option to either reduce the total number of Councillors to 60, which would give an almost perfect match by 2021 (based on the 2021 figures given), or create a new ward in the south of the borough. The latter option would mean some isolated areas in Bridge and Roding, to the east of the Roding Valley, being absorbed into Fairlop and Fullwell.
None of this is going to go down well in Wanstead and Woodford or for that matter with the current opposition. But …. That’s just the way it is! It’s either more housing or less representation. You can’t have your cake and eat it.
Elsewhere the Chair of Save Oakfield Society is quoted in the Ilford Recorder on the London Mayor’s recently released interactive map showing Redbridge’s brownfield potential on publicly owned land, while the Huffington Post reports that since 2010 a mere 200 homes have been built on government owned land in the entire UK.