Borough’s frontiers stay same

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WIGAN borough is to be no bigger, smaller or different in shape than it is at present.

So came the ruling today after it was announced that the latest national shake-up of boundaries will not affect us.

The news was greeted with much joy by campaigners in Leigh who had been trying to thwart Boundary Commission proposals to redraw the local map as part of a Government scheme to regularise the number of voters across constituencies.

Local MP Andy Burnham today described the U-turn as a “famous victory for Leigh.”

The controversial proposals would have, bizarrely, seen Leigh losing its town hall to Westhoughton.

The Keep Leigh in Leigh campaign had been marshalled by Mr Burnham and Centurions chief executive Trevor Barton but had also been backed by local Conservatives who added their name to the joint letter of protest.

The threat to redraw Leigh would also have seen much of existing Tyldesley annexed from the proposed new constituency.

When the consultation deadline closed more than 3,500 had signed a petition or written a response to the Boundary Commission in London.

Under the bid, Leigh would have been split into three constituencies with the existing civic and cultural heart of the town pushed into Westhoughton.

Campaigners attacked the scheme for being a random creation that sought to link places that have no ties and no shared history, contrary to the criteria laid down by Parliament for the commission to follow.

Key wards that make up the historical boundaries of Leigh town, notably Leigh West and Atherleigh, would no longer have formed part of the constituency and key icons of the local community, including Leigh Town Hall, Leigh Parish Church and Leigh Library - the civic, religious and cultural heart of the town - moved to Bolton borough.

Geographically linked and significant places, including Pennington Flash and the redeveloped Bickershaw Colliery site, would also have been lost.

Mr Burnham, who had described the proposals as “disrespectful of our town, its people and its history,” said he was delighted by the Boundary Commission’s re-think.

He said: “This is a famous victory for Leigh. It sends out a clear message that, going forward, we won’t be pushed around but will fight hard to protect our town and our identity.

“Leigh has lost too many things down the years but no-one was taking our Town Hall off us. I would like to thank everyone who helped the Keep Leigh In Leigh campaign.

“It was a formidable effort and it rightly received recognition from the Boundary Commission. I hope this goes some way to restoring people’s faith that it is worth getting involved and that, at least sometimes, the powers-that-be do listen.

“While I do not think these proposals should ever have been made, I am grateful to the Boundary Commission for listening and accepting the arguments we made.

“From here, Leigh can face the future with confidence. Let’s bring the same campaigning spirit to improving our town, including much-needed public transport.”