SEVEN councillors have announced as they will stand as 'Christchurch Independents' for the new unitary council in May in a bid to prevent the borough being 'dominated' by Bournemouth.

They include the current Conservative leader of Christchurch Council, David Flagg, colleagues Margaret Phipps, the borough's Mayor Lesley Dedman, Nick Geary and Janet Abbott.

They will work with the two existing independent members on Christchurch Council, Colin Bungey and Fred Neale, to give residents 'a strong and united voice'.

Others have indicated they may join up amid growing concerns about the new authority being a Bournemouth takeover.

All seven campaigned against the government-approved merger of Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole – which was overwhelmingly opposed by local residents in a referendum in December 2017.

Cllr Phipps said: “The people of Christchurch are entitled to feel let down by the Conservative government and by a number of Conservative councillors in the borough who supported the merger. Christchurch was forced into this new mega-council and was effectively sold out.

"The new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council will come into existence in April with elections in May and it is clear that the best interests of Christchurch cannot by served by Conservatives who will be beholden to a Tory party whip imposed from central Bournemouth."

Cllr Bungey, who has represented the borough since 1983, added: "Christchurch Independent representatives will stand up and fight for the borough, not be whipped into line from Bournemouth's centralised leadership.

“It must be very obvious to most people that the Conservative leaders in Bournemouth has absolutely no interest in what is best for Christchurch.

“A clear example is their refusal to even consider council tax harmonisation across the three councils from 1 April 2019, resulting in Christchurch residents having to pay more than Bournemouth and Poole residents for six years.”

In the December 2017 referendum, 84 per cent (around 17,000) of residents opposed the controversial merger of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

Cllr David Flagg added: "The residents of Christchurch have reason to be concerned about the ambitions and plans of this new Bournemouth-dominated council, in everything from planning to housing.

"Bournemouth has insufficient land for all the new housing they require, so it is obvious they will need Christchurch green belt to meet their targets. We will stand up and fight for Christchurch as non-party representatives and do what we believe is right for our borough."

Cllr Geary, who like councillors Flagg, Neale and Bungey is a former mayor of Christchurch, added: "The fight on behalf of Christchurch and its residents to prevent us being dominated and overwhelmed by Bournemouth, goes on."

The move follows growing concern in others area about the purging of longstanding Conservative councillors such as Dave Smith of Bournemouth and Elaine Atkinson in Poole.