PLANS have been proposed to combine several parish and town councils in the Bridport area into one single council.

Bridport Town Council has published three options for the future governance of the town, including a preferred proposal for a merger of four parishes into a single council for the built area of the town, with an aim of improving local democracy and local services.

Dorset Council launched a review of parish boundaries last month, which invites town and parish councils to submit proposals for changes to electoral boundaries, numbers of councillors and other aspects of local governance.

Bridport Town Council's submission includes the merging of the existing parishes of Allington, Bothenhampton and Walditch, Bradpole, the Vearse Farm development and Bridport into a single council area.

Cllr Dave Rickard, leader of Bridport Town Council, said: “Since the existing town and parish councils were created in 1974, Bridport and three surrounding parishes have gradually coalesced into a single urban area, and now is the right time to consider whether it is right for them all to remain separately governed.

"Many of the services enjoyed by residents across the area are already provided by Bridport Town Council, but people living in some parts of the town such as Allington, Bothenhampton, and Bradpole, have no say in what is provided and are not asked to contribute to the cost of those services.

"Added to that, the creation of a new unitary Dorset Council and the difficulties that the parish councils face in attracting councillors to stand for election, make local government feel very distant from many residents.

"The changes will build on the success of the town council as one of the larger councils in Dorset, resulting in locals being elected as ward members to represent their areas but with vastly improved in-house organisation and expertise, officers and staff to support problem-solving and projects. Ward committees will more effectively be able to solve problems which, hitherto, had to be passed to another authority to rectify."

He added: "We will also look at ways of protecting very local influence and traditional identity, perhaps through village-based community groups with a specific function of ensuring that the needs of the traditional villages are not subsumed but enhanced by the realignment. Our proposals will offer greater democracy and accountability, better public services, fairer funding, and a stronger voice for Bridport, without affecting people’s local identity.”

Bridport Town Council’s submission will be considered at a full council meeting on Tuesday, September 21.

The key elements of the proposal include:

• A single town council area incorporating most of the existing parishes of Allington, Bothenhampton and Walditch, Bradpole and Bridport.

• A total of 20 councillors, compared with 44 at present across the four parishes.

• Wards within the new council area based on local identity, with five wards representing Bradpole, Bothenhampton and Walditch, Bridport Central, Bridport West and Allington, and West Bay.

• Inclusion of the Vearse Farm development into the single council area.

• Pymore village becoming part of Symondsbury parish, reflecting its rural setting separate from the urban area.

Town Mayor Cllr Ian Bark said “During my term as Mayor – strictly speaking for Bridport parish only – I have been asked to get involved in events and issues that affect all of the surrounding parishes and I get a strong sense of a wider ‘Bridport’ community, even in areas with their own local identity.

"I think we can be stronger together and hope that people will support the proposals.”

Bridport councillors will decide their preferred options, but Dorset Council will determine whether proposed changes meet national guidance and deliver a legal model for governance. Dorset Council’s recommendations are expected in December, and final outcomes would take effect from the elections in May 2024.

The Town Council will meet virtually at 7pm on Tuesday 21 June, and joining details can be found here.

For those without internet access, a limited number of people will be able to join the town clerk to participate, by prior arrangement only. Please call 01308 456722 or email to arrange.