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What’s where and why?

By [email protected] - 19th October 2017 - 13:54

You might well ask, particularly when shifts in county boundaries lead to confusion over what is where. Is Wigan in Greater Manchester or Lancashire? Or is Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria or Lancashire? Just two of more than 600 English towns and villages that have no clear county affiliation according to the British Counties Campaign, a Facebook group that seeks to end the confusion by restoring the nation’s 92 ancient counties.1

For Danny Dorling, Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, resurrecting the past in this way could create even more confusion. Yet, as a social geographer, he questions why our county boundaries are subject to so much change. Tackling the issue on BBC Radio2, he pointed to the gradual disempowerment of local government as a principal reason for centrally-imposed changes that have led to “some of the most confusing boundaries in the world.”

Just look at the proliferation of counties, each with slightly varying boundaries: ceremonial counties, ancient counties, shrieval counties, administrative counties, postal counties, census counties, metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties, and so on. That said, Dorling believes we have no option other than to “live with the confusion we’ve created for ourselves, I’m afraid it’s just part of being British that we have created the most complicated geography in the world.”

Just to keep the pot boiling, and as we go to press, the presumed villain of the piece – the Boundary Commission for England – is about to publish revised proposals for boundaries that will re-draw the map of Parliamentary constituencies.3 And with more than 25,000 comments from members of the public on the initial proposals, it could be a tough call. That much is admitted by Tony Bellinger, Deputy Secretary to the Commission, who blogs, “In many areas, more than one alternative approach has been proposed, so it can become a pretty tough job to find a solution that works for everyone, though we do try!”


2 BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, 13 Sep 2017


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