The final battle lines in Somerset have been drawn for the next general election, including the new Taunton & Wellington and Tiverton & Minehead constituencies.

The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has held three rounds of public consultation on its proposals to redraw the parliamentary constituency boundaries ahead of the next general election, which must be held by January 2025.

Following the conclusion of the final round in December 2022, the final proposals have now been presented to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle MP.

Parliament will now have four months to formally approve the changes – meaning the new boundaries will take affect at any general election called after November 1.

The area covered by Somerset Council is currently divided into five constituencies – Bridgwater and West Somerset, Somerton and Frome, Taunton Deane, Wells and Yeovil.

Four of these seats currently have Conservative MPs – with a by-election for the Somerton and Frome constituency due to take place on July 20 following the resignation of David Warburton.

Under the proposals, the total number of seats in the House of Commons will remain at 650 – but the number of constituencies in England will increase from 533 to 543.

The new boundaries are designed to make representation more equal, with each of the new seats having a population of between 69,724 and 77,062 people.

Here’s how the new Somerset seats will look – and what it could mean for the county’s representation in Westminster:

Taunton & Wellington (electorate: 76,049)

The existing Taunton Deane constituency has been held by Defra minister Rebecca Pow since 2015, though her majority did fall slightly at the last general election.

The proposed Taunton and Wellington seat will retain Somerset’s county town and the surrounding villages – including Norton Fitzwarren and Staplegrove, where significant new housing for Taunton is proposed.

However, it will lose Wiveliscombe and settlements like Bishops Lydeard at the southern end of the Quantock Hills to the neighbouring Tiverton and Minehead seat.

The Lib Dems have traditionally polled well in local elections in this area, winning most of the Taunton seats at the local elections in May and also doing well in the rural areas, including Somerset’s portion of the Blackdown Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

With these new boundaries depriving the Conservatives of several of the more rural parishes, the Lib Dems may see this as a viable target seat at the next election – and have re-selected Gideon Amos, who contested the seat in 2019, as their prospective parliamentary candidate.

Final boundaries for the Tiverton and Minehead constituency
Final boundaries for the Tiverton and Minehead constituency (Boundary Commission for England)

Tiverton & Minehead (electorate: 70,829)

This new seat is the single biggest redrawing of the map, with Somerset and Devon joining up together.

The constituency combines the western, more rural end of the current Bridgwater and West Somerset seat – including Minehead, Watchet and Williton – together with most of the Exmoor National Park and the entirety of the Quantock Hills AONB.

On top of this, it includes Tiverton and the surrounding villages, which are currently part of the Tiverton and Honiton constituency – which the Lib Dems captured in a by-election in June following the resignation of Neil Parish.

Mr Liddell-Grainger has already been selected as the Conservatives’ candidate – and given this is the most rural seat in Somerset, he should feel reasonably confident of remaining in parliament.

Frome and East Somerset (electorate: 70,177)

The existing Somerton and Frome seat – which has been held by Mr Warburton since 2015 – is one of the largest seats in Somerset, covering around 900 square miles.

The new seat takes the eastern elements of the former Mendip district, keeping Frome and the villages east of Shepton Mallet.

It also includes Midsomer Norton and Radstock, which currently form part of the North East Somerset seat held by former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg since 2010.

The biggest change from the initial proposals is that Bruton has been moved into the neighbouring Glastonbury and Somerton seat following feedback from local residents.

The Lib Dems will be confident of doing well here following the Somerset Council election elections in May 2022 – but Frome has a strong Green following, which may split the progressive vote.

Glastonbury & Somerton (electorate: 70,015)

The new Glastonbury and Somerton seat is being created out of the majority of the existing Somerton and Frome seat, including the towns of Bruton, Castle Cary, Langport, Somerton and Wincanton.

It will also include the town of Glastonbury, the neighbouring village of Street, and the Ham Hill tourist attraction – much to the chagrin of current Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh, who said the change “makes no sense”.

On the basis of the unitary election results in May, the seat could be another potential battleground, with the Conservatives retaining support in Wincanton while losing ground to the Lib Dems in the western half of the proposed constituency.

But with the Green party still retaining strong pockets of support – especially in Glastonbury – this may end up being a constituency where many of the more left-leaning parties end up competing for the same votes.

Wells & Mendip Hills (electorate: 69,843)

James Heappey has held the Wells seat since 2015 – but the new Wells constituency will bear little resemblance to the current one.

While it still includes Axbridge, Cheddar, Shepton Mallet and Wells itself, the new constituency loses the coastal towns of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge to the new Bridgwater seat.

Interestingly, the new constituency also includes Yatton and other settlements which currently form the eastern part of the Weston-super-Mare seat held by John Penrose since 2005.

The Lib Dems won heavily in this neck of the woods in the 2022 local elections, and former MP Tessa Munt will be relishing the prospect of another battle with Mr Heappey.

However, the seat remains largely rural with an ageing population – characteristics which would traditionally point towards a Tory victory.

Bridgwater (electorate: 71,418)

The new boundary essentially follows the western boundaries of the Sedgemoor district – with eastern settlements like Axbridge and Cheddar moving into the neighbouring Wells and Mendip Hills seat.

The new boundaries also mean Bridgwater’s MP will no longer have the Hinkley Point C power station in their constituency, since that will become part of Tiverton and Minehead.

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has enjoyed a large majority since his seat was created in 2010, having previously represented the Bridgwater constituency since 2001.

This new seat is more likely to be a three-way marginal constituency, with Labour traditionally polling well in Bridgwater, the Liberal Democrats recently making gains in North Petherton and Burnham-on-Sea, and the Conservatives expecting to do well in the more rural areas.

Yeovil (electorate: 76,056)

For the most part, the boundaries of the new Yeovil seat are the same as the current Yeovil constituency, which has been represented by Marcus Fysh since 2015.

However, the new Yeovil constituency will not include the villages between Podimore and the northern edge of Yeovil itself, which will become part of the new Glastonbury and Somerton seat.

The Yeovil seat will include the largest population areas within the current South Somerset district – including Yeovil, Chard, Crewkerne and Ilminster, though Castle Cary and Wincanton do not feature.

Mr Fysh increased his majority in 2019 and has been reselected following a ballot of local party members.

However, the Lib Dems have strong support within the former district on the new unitary – so their candidate, Adam Dance, may fancy his chances.

BCE secretary Tim Bowden said: “The recommendations we have published today mark the end of a thorough and consultative process to build the new map of parliamentary constituencies.

“We have taken into account more than 60,000 public comments, travelled the country, and heard many passionate views about how best to reflect local community ties in our recommendations.

“We are confident that our final recommendations are the best reflection of the statutory rules parliament has set us. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has participated in the 2023 boundary review.”