IN the local referendum in December 2017, the people of Christchurch voted overwhelmingly against proposals to merge with Bournemouth and Poole. More than 17,000 residents (84 per cent of those who cast a ballot) opposed the idea. Despite this strong show of public opinion, the government gave the go-ahead.

As a result, the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole unitary authority comes into being in a few weeks. Many people are already very concerned that in everything from housing to planning and development, Bournemouth will dominate the new council and have little or no regard or interest in what is best for Christchurch. Residents here will already be paying more in council tax than those in Bournemouth and Poole until 2025.

We must make sure this new council works for our borough and does not simply become a takeover. We have therefore come to the conclusion that the interests of Christchurch and its residents can only be served by the borough having a strong and unified independent voice - not a group of councillors answering to a Conservative whip imposed from Bournemouth.

Accordingly we will stand for election on May 2 as 'Christchurch Independents.’ This will enable us, if elected, to be that strong, unified and independent voice, doing what we believe is right for our borough and to maintain its unique identity, at every turn and on every issue, not just for the 17,000 who voted against going into Bournemouth, but for every single resident.

We hope you will support us and help up us stand up for Christchurch.

Cllr Janet Abbott, Cllr Colin Bungey, Cllr Lesley Dedman, Cllr David Flagg, Cllr Nick Geary,

Cllr Paul Hilliard, Cllr Fred Neale, Cllr Margaret Phipps, Simon McCormack