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Calshot residents' anger as review suggests polling station could be cut
12:20pm Thursday 13th March 2014 in News
An isolated village looks set to lose its only polling station in a move that has been branded a blow to democracy.
A review of polling stations across the New Forest could result in hundreds of Calshot residents being unable to vote at St George’s Centre in Tristan Close.
The only other voting facility in the area is one-and-ahalf miles away.
Critics claim that villagers without transport will stay at home rather than face a long walk to the Jubilee Hall at Fawley and back.
Calshot is at the end of the A326 – dubbed the longest cul-de-sac in Hampshire.
But members of the district council’s general purposes and licensing committee agreed that the authority should stop using St George’s Centre as a polling station, despite strong objections to the plan.
He told the committee: “Calshot is an isolated community that’s difficult to reach by sustainable transport.
There’s only one bus an hour and no trains.
“Expecting people to walk half an hour each way to Fawley and back is too much.”
But council officers described St George’s Centre as dirty, and cited incidents of antisocial behaviour, including one in which masked youths stood near the building in a threatening manner, apparently in a bid to deter people from voting.
Officers said that everyone affected by the decision to close the polling station would be invited to apply for a postal vote.
Tory councillor Alexis McEvoy supported the proposal, saying that only a handful of Calshot’s 321 electors ever voted at St George’s Centre.
But Cllr Pope told the Daily Echo: “Many residents can’t afford a car and are very angry at what’s being proposed.”
A Calshot resident said: “It’s absolutely appalling, especially considering how isolated the area is and how dependent the residents are on public transport.”
Two other “low usage” polling stations at Bisterne and Thorney Hill are also due to close following the review, although the committee’s decision will have to be ratified at the next full meeting of the council.
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