A CONTROVERSIAL carve-up of Hampshire's electoral map has been drastically watered down.

There was an outcry last year when the Boundary Commission first proposed sweeping changes to seats in Southampton, Eastleigh and the New Forest.

But its revised proposals, published yesterday, signalled a retreat, with the most controversial proposals abandoned.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to scupper the changes, as revenge for the demise of their Lords Reform hopes.

But David Cameron has vowed to hold a Commons vote, and the Boundary Commission is legally bound to carry on with the project - which will end up costing taxpayers £15 million.

Plans to join Romsey up with the New Forest East constituency have been scrapped, as has has the transfer of large parts of New Forest East, including Lyndhurst, into the New Forest West seat.

New Forest East MP Julian Lewis said: "They have completely retreated from what they were going to do before."

Southampton would have been represented by four different MPs, with Bitterne ward moved to a new Hedge End and Hamble seat and Swaythling becoming part of Eastleigh.

But the commission received a deluge of complaints from locals and politicians and these proposals have also been abandoned.

The seat of Romsey and Southampton North held by Caroline Nokes would be retained under the new proposals, while Eastleigh would be largely unchanged.

Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne charged taxpayers £9,900 on his expenses for an opinion poll of his constituents which he submitted as evidence to protest about the changes. Most of the 842 polled did not want to see any change, the survey said.

The Meon Valley seat held by George Hollingberry would still be axed, with the number of seats in Hampshire, Southampton and Portsmouth reducing from 18 to 17.

Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead said: "The vast majority of local people who took part in this review said they want to keep the strong link we have right now between Southampton as a city and its MPs."