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A new name for the Forest of Dean? The ongoing debate

Posted on 12th October 2016

There has been controversy brewing in Gloucestershire recently as the Parliamentary constituency has proposed to rename the constituency of the Forest of Dean to ‘West Gloucestershire’. The plans come among many changes to electoral boundary changes which are being rolled out across the country, with other locations including areas of the Westcountry such as Devon and Cornwall.

Forest of Dean bluebell woods

Although the district council will continue to be called the Forest of Dean, the MP for the area will represent West Gloucestershire rather than the Forest itself. The changes will also include the new constitution adopting Coombe Hill from Tewkesbury.

If the changes are to go through, the new West Gloucestershire constituency will grow by up to 4,000 people. But it is not this that residents oppose. The Forest of Dean has had its name since 1997, and now more than 1,000 people have joined a campaign to stop the Boundary Commission changing the name back to the one it had formerly held since the 1950s.

Those among the opposition claim that, as this national reshuffle aimed at reducing MP numbers contains areas of Tewkesbury, there no reason to lose the Forest of Dean name. The alterations are designed to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600. A petition has been started to urge officials to maintain the name, even if this means also adding ‘Coombe Hill’ to the title to reflect the new parts of the constituency.

Labour councillor Tim Gwilliam explains the deep-running ties of Forest of Dean communities to their area’s name, as Gloucestershire Live reports: “We will not lose the hard earned identity of our Forest of Dean.” He claims that the resistance is “not political, just common sense and local pride.” Others argue that the name is essential to the tourism industry, as many visitors taking Forest of Dean cottage holidays visit the area for its imagery, much of which is encapsulated in the name, “The Forest of Dean”.

The new constituency would consist of 72,354 people, and 94.8% of these people would live in Forest of Dean wards. Despite divisive attitudes towards the proposals, the Commission is listening to locals: they are organising public hearings around the country, with the nearest for the Forest of Dean being in Bristol on November 17th and 18th. Communities with oppositions to boundary changes have until December 5th to submit comments.

Whether or not the constituency of the Forest of Dean maintains its name, one thing is certain: this community’s spirit and identity is firmly in place.

Image Credit: Saffron Blaze (Wikimedia Commons)