A REVIEW has been launched challenging plans to merge Christchurch council with Bournemouth and Poole.

There has been talk of some form of legal challenge being prepared for several months, dating back before Communities Secretary Sajid Javid formally approved the Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) plan in February.

Now Christchurch borough resident Alistair Somerville-Ford has personally funded and launched a judicial review, backed by constituency MP Sir Christopher Chope, targeting the public consultation which preceded the decision.

Dr Somerville-Ford told the Echo his costs could reach as high as £200,000, but it would be "worth trying to protect an ancient borough".

He said papers had been filed, although on Tuesday a spokesman for the councils behind LGR said they were not yet aware of the review.

Dr Somerville-Ford said: “From its inception the process has been characterised by secrecy, evasion and deceit on the part of those seeking the reorganisation.

“The government has repeatedly said that no authority will be forced to merge without its consent.”

He said the review would seek to challenge the claim that the 2016 consultation organised by polling firm Opinion Research Services showed “overwhelming support” for the unitary plan – on which basis Mr Javid approved the plan.

“It is contended that the consultation is flawed and was unfit for purpose,” he said.

“The financial figures on which it is based exaggerate the savings available.

“The consultation document was deliberately biased and written to show Option 1 (No Change) in the worst possible light.

“The questionnaire was written in a way which minimised respondents’ opportunity to indicate a preference for ‘No Change’."

The review bid will be considered at an initial hearing to determine whether it will go before a judge.

Dr Somerville-Ford said he hoped Christchurch council "will proceed with its own judicial review" as well.

Matt Prosser, chief executive of Dorset Councils Partnership, said: "We have had no formal notification from any party and so are unaware of the status or basis of any challenge.

"The Secretary of State decided, subject to Parliamentary approval, to implement the reorganisation of local government across Dorset.

"We are confident that the evidence presented by the six Dorset councils to the Secretary of State to assist him in making his decision is robust and stands up to any legal scrutiny.

"We will continue to focus our efforts on setting up the two councils, and work to this end continues at pace."