Orpington

Orpington is a borough constituency in the London Borough of Bromley.

It is one of three constituencies in the borough and covers about half the area of the borough in the south and east. The Orpington constituency includes Biggin Hill, Farnborough, Petts Wood and part of the Cray Valley.

History of the constituency

The constituency of Orpington was first created in 1945 following a special review to reduce the size of constituencies that had enlarged between the two World Wars. By 1945 the Chislehurst constituency had an electorate of over 115, 000, so it was divided. About half of the area transferred to a new constituency named Orpington, which had similar boundaries to the modern constituency. The Cray Valley area north of the railway line, which now forms part of the modern constituency, remained in the Chislehurst constituency until boundary changes in 1997. Between 1983 and 1997 the Biggin Hill area had formed part of the Ravensbourne constituency, which was abolished in 1997.

Latest boundary changes

The latest boundary changes, which were implemented at the 2005 General Election, have transferred the Cray Valley West ward to the Bromley and Chislehurst constituency. There have also been some minor adjustments along the boundary between the Orpington and Beckenham constituencies as a result changes to the ward boundaries between the Farnborough and Crofton ward and the Bromley Common and Keston ward. This has transferred about 130 voters in Holwood Park Road and Ninhams Wood from the Orpington constituency to the Beckenham constituency.

Members of Parliament for the Orpington constituency

The Orpington constituency has had five MPs since it was created in 1945. All but one of those has represented the Conservative Party.

1945 - present Orpington

1945-74 Single seat county constituency and 1974-present borough constituency. Between 1974 and 1983 the constituency was officially called Bromley, Orpington.

Early Representation

The people of Kent have been represented in Parliament since at least the 13th Century. It was this period that saw the practice of returning two knights from the shire counties to Parliaments summoned by writ to meet. These were generally regarded as the first assemblies of representatives. At that time Westminster had yet to become the permanent home of Parliament. It was the King who decided when and where a Parliament should assemble, and although Westminster was the usual venue, sometimes special circumstances in this period meant Parliaments were summoned to other cities. Early returns have not survived, but the first named representatives of Kent, Fulco Peyferer and Henricus de Apeldrefeud, are shown in the returns to the Parliament of England summoned to meet at Westminster on 13 October 1275 in the reign of Edward I. In this early period of Parliamentary history not all Parliaments summoned just shire Knights. Some also required the presence of two representatives of each city and borough. Many early Parliaments showed returns for the cities of Canterbury and Rochester. By the beginning of the 18th Century the county of Kent was represented by two county Members and two Members from each of the four Parliamentary boroughs in the county, namely, Canterbury, Maidstone, Queenborough, and Rochester. In addition Kent gained extra representation by virtue of the Cinque Ports. The Cinque Ports are a confederation of ancient ports in southeast England along the coast of Kent and Sussex, with uncertain origins. The original five Head Ports were Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich, with Rye and Winchelsea added later. The ships provided by the ports formed an early naval force for the King.7 The Orpington area was not within any of the Parliamentary boroughs and was therefore represented by the two county Members for Kent before 1832.

19th and early 20th Century changes

The Great Reform Act of 1832 reformed the distribution of seats in England and Wales, introducing the principle of splitting the shire counties into divisions and returning two Members for each division rather than for the whole county. Kent was one of those listed. The divisions of Kent were based on lathes, which were areas of grouped hundreds. Hundreds were administrative units used in southern ancient counties of England and their roles and origins are unclear. Orpington, and the surrounding area, was in the Ruxley hundred which formed part of the Sutton-at-Hone lathe. This was allocated to the Western Kent division of the county; Orpington would therefore have been represented by the two MPs for Western Kent between 1832 and 1868.

The Boundary Commission Review 1868 inquired into the boundaries of the new boroughs created by the Act; the counties the Act had newly divided, and to review all other existing boroughs that had not been disenfranchised by the Act. In inquiring into existing boroughs, the Commissioners had the power to recommend extension of borough boundaries if it thought this was appropriate. This Act also increased the number of Members representing each of the growing industrial cities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, from two to three. The Commissioners conducted local inquiries and reported in 1868.The RPA 1867 added to the number of counties that were to be divided. East Kent was unaffected, but the Act further divided the western division of Kent into two new divisions. West Kent was redefined as comprising the Sutton at Hone Lathe, which included the very western portion of the old county of Kent, running from Greenwich to beyond Dartford and south to beyond Sevenoaks and Edenbridge. The new division of Mid Kent contained the remainder of the old division of West Kent and stretched from Northfleet to Tunbridge Wells to Chatham, Lenham and the Isle of Oxney. This meant Orpington remained part of the modified Western Kent division after this review.

The Boundary Commission Review 1885 and the ensuing Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 altered representation in many of the counties, with several divided into single Member divisions. Kent was one such county and the Act divided the areas of the county not included in Parliamentary boroughs into eight divisions. The area covered by the modern Orpington constituency was now split between two constituencies. Orpington and the area to the north to North Cray, including Kevingtown, were allocated to the Dartford constituency. Chelsfield and Farnborough, and the area to the south, were allocated to the Sevenoaks constituency.

The Boundary Commission Review 1917's results were incorporated into the Representation of the People Act 1918. The Act made many changes to constituencies and elections in the UK. Since the previous review in 1885 the county of London had been created. Section 40 of the Local Government Act 1888 implemented the provision for new county of London. The previous year a Boundary Commission for local government boundaries had been established, at this time the each Boundary Commission was ad hoc, and recommended county boundaries. Kent lost the northwest part of the county around Greenwich and Eltham to London and other alterations were made to the border with East Sussex. Beckenham, Bromley and Orpington remained part of Kent at this stage. Bromley and Beckenham were combined to form the Bromley constituency. Orpington and its surrounding area were allocated to the Chislehurst constituency. These boundaries were first used in the election of December 1918.

Special Review into Abnormally Large Constituencies

The regular reviews of Parliamentary constituencies have their origins in the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1944. Prior to embarking on the general review of the whole country, the 1944 Act instructed the Boundary Commission for England to review twenty constituencies immediately. These were referred to as “abnormally large constituencies” and were defined as those constituencies where the electorate had grown in excess of 100,000. The Chislehurst constituency, which included the area of the modern Orpington constituency, about half the modern Bromley and Chislehurst constituency and parts of the current Dartford and Sevenoaks constituencies, had an electorate of about 115,000. The neighbouring Dartford constituency had an electorate of over 134,000. The redistribution in this area meant that the north west of Kent gained three seats. The existing Chislehurst constituency was effectively divided in half to form two new seats, Orpington and Chislehurst. The Orpington constituency was comprised of the urban district of Orpington and the parts of the boroughs of Bromley and Beckenham not included in the Parliamentary borough of Bromley. The urban district of Orpington’s northern border followed the railway line that runs from St Mary Cray to Swanley which meant that the part of the modern Orpington constituency around Paul’s Cray Hill remained in the Chislehurst constituency at this time. The rest of the modern Orpington constituency was contained within the county constituency of Orpington created by this review.

Boundary Commission Periodical Reviews

This Act instructed the Boundary Commission for England to conduct an initial review of all seats with a view to keeping them under constant review. The Orpington constituency was revised as a result of the Initial review. It still comprised the whole urban district of Orpington but the southern parts of Beckenham and Bromley that had been included in the seat were transferred to the separate Beckenham and Bromley constituencies. Instead the Orpington constituency also now included eleven parishes from the rural district of Dartford which meant that the boundaries of the Orpington constituency extended east to Eynsford and Ash. The northern boundary of the urban district of Orpington remained along the railway line, which meant the St Paul’s Cray Hill remained in the Chislehurst constituency.

The 1st Periodical Review followed in 1953-4 with the report published in 1954. In this review the parishes of the rural district of Dartford were transferred to the Dartford constituency. The Orpington constituency therefore comprised the urban district of Orpington. These new boundaries were first used in the 1955 general election. Paul’s Cray Hill remained in the Chislehurst constituency.

The 2nd Periodical Review was published in 1969, having commenced in February 1965. A significant change had occurred in the north west of Kent since the previous review. The London Government Act 1963 created the county of Greater London, and the boroughs within it. The Greater London, Kent and Surrey Order 1968 had made further transfers. It was these change that created the shape of Greater London that exists today. The Orpington, Bromley and Bexley areas of Kent were transferred to Greater London. Orpington had become part of the London Borough of Bromley. Bromley was allocated four constituencies. Orpington was retained as a seat, known as ‘Bromley, Orpington’ and comprised the following wards, as they existed at the time: Biggin Hill, Chelsfield, Darwin, Farnborough, Goddington, Petts Wood, and St Mary Cray. The new definition took into account the new local government structure but made only minor adjustments to the constituency. The railway still formed a natural boundary for some of the wards and the St Paul’s Cray ward, which included the part of the modern Orpington constituency north of the railway line formed part of the Bromley, Chislehurst constituency. The Orpington constituency was also redsignated a borough constituency. The 1969 recommendations were not implemented until after the 1970 general election, so the new boundaries were not used until the general elections of 1974.

The 3rd Periodical Review commenced in 1976, and the report was published in 1983.The Boundary Commission recommended that the London Borough of Bromley should continue to have four constituencies. The two northern constituencies had only minor adjustments to take into account new wards created in Bromley in 1977. The southern seats, Orpington and Ravensbourne, were significantly altered. The southern half of the existing Orpington constituency was transferred to the Ravensboune constituency. This left Orpington comprising the following new wards: Chelsfield and Goddington, Crofton, Farnborough, Orpington Central, Petts Wood and Knoll, and St Mary Cray. The boundary between the Orpington and Ravensbourne constituencies followed the Farnborough Way and Sevenoaks Road with the area south of this in the Ravensbourne constituency. The new boundaries were implemented by order in 1983. They were used in the 1983, 1987 and 1992 general elections.

The 4th Periodical Review commenced in February 1991 and reported to Parliament in June 1995. The theoretical entitlement of the borough of Bromley was to 3.34 seats under this review. The Boundary Commission had considered pairing Bromley with another borough for the purposes of the review however it decided other boroughs were better suited to pairing and that Bromley should be reviewed separately. It therefore allocated the borough three seats. The Boundary Commission proposed abolishing the Ravensbourne constituency and redistributing the wards forming the seat between three new seats. The Commission initially proposed that four of the Ravensbourne constituency’s wards should be transferred to the Orpington seat and that it should be renamed Orpington and Ravensbourne. The Commission also recommended transferring the St Mary Cray ward to the Chislehurst constituency. In transferring four wards to the new Orpington and Ravensbourne seat the Commission had allocated the two wards covering West Wickham to two different constituencies. The proposals prompted sufficient representations for a local inquiry to be held.

The division of the West Wickham community was met with considerable opposition. A counter-proposal was submitted that both the West Wickham wards should be in the same seat and that they had a closer affinity to Beckenham. The Assistant Commissioner conducting the inquiry accepted the counter-proposal and recommended that both West Wickham wards should be in the Beckenham seat. The inclusion of the Bromley Common and Keston ward in the Chislehurst constituency also prompted counter-proposals but the Assistant Commissioner supported the Boundary Commission’s initial proposal that the ward should be in the Orpington and Ravensbourne seat. Following the Assistant Commissioner’s report and the acceptance of some of his recommendations the Boundary Commission decided to re-allocate the Bromley Common and Keston ward to the revised Bromley and Chislehurst constituency. The proposed transfer of St Mary Cray to the Chislehurst constituency was also opposed at the local inquiry. The Assistant Commissioner concluded that St Mary Cray was closely associated with Orpington. The Boundary Commission accepted that this was the case but the Commission also maintained that St Paul’s Cray should be in the same constituency as St Mary Cray and therefore revised their proposals so that were both in the Orpington and Ravesnbourne constituency. The Commission accepted the recommendation that Ravensbourne should not be included in the constituency name as there “appeared to be no great local support” for it to be included. The Orpington constituency was therefore defined as comprising the following wards: Biggin Hill, Chelsfield and Goddington, Crofton, Darwin, Farnborough, Orpington Central, Petts Wood and Knoll, St Mary Cray, and St Paul’s Cray. These boundaries were implemented by order in 1995, and used in the 1997, 2001 and 2005 general elections.

The 5th Periodical Review of constituencies in England commenced in February 2000 and was published in February 2007. The final recommendations adopted by the Commission and approved by Parliament was used at the 2010 general election.

Since the previous review the borough of Bromley had been re-warded. For this review the Boundary Commission decided to review Bromley and Lewisham as one review area. The Commission reported that although Bromley did not require pairing, with a theoretical entitlement to 3.19 seats, but that Lewisham did, with a theoretical entitlement to 2.5 seats.

However, Lewisham’s three neighbouring boroughs are Bromley, Southwark and Greenwich. Both Greenwich and Southwark were already paired (with Lambeth and Bexley respectively) and the Commission decided that those pairings were still appropriate, which left Bromley as the only borough available for pairing with Lewisham. The ward boundary adjustments made little difference to the existing Orpington constituency but the Boundary Commission initially proposed that the Darwin and Biggin Hill wards should be transferred to a new constituency called Beckenham and Biggin Hill. This left Pratts Bottom in the Orpington constituency as it no longer formed part of Darwin ward but would have transferred the rest of the southern part of the constituency. This would have created an Orpington constituency similar to the seat as it had been constituted in 1983 with the addition of the St Paul’s Cray area. The separation of the Biggin Hill and Darwin wards from the Orpington constituency prompted objections and it was one of the issues discussed at a local inquiry.

The Assistant Commissioner conducting the inquiry concluded that the inclusion of the Biggin Hill and Darwin wards in the Beckenham constituency would “significantly break local ties” and therefore recommended their retention in the Orpington constituency. In order to accommodate the two wards the Assisstant Commissioner recommended that the Cray Valley west ward should be transferred to the Bromley and Chislehurst constituency. The two new wards covering the Cray Valley were no longer divided by the railway line, instead they were divided east-west.

The Assistant Commissioner concluded that the division of the two Cray Valley wards between two constituencies would not break local ties whereas the transfer of both wards to the Bromley and Chislehurst constituency would. The alterations to the recommended Orpington constituency were accepted by the Boundary Commission and the final definition of the Orpington constituency adopted was that it should comprise the following seven wards: Biggin Hill, Chelsfield and Pratts Bottom, Cray Valley East, Darwin, Farnborough and Crofton, Orpington, and Petts Wood and Knoll.

The changes meant that the whole Cray Valley West ward was transferred to the Bromley and Chislehurst constituency. There were also some minor adjustments along the boundary between the Orpington and Beckenham constituencies as a result of the altered ward boundaries between the Farnborough and Crofton ward and the Bromley Common and Keston ward. This transferred about 130 voters in Holwood Park Road and Ninhams Wood from the Orpington constituency to the Beckenham constituency.

The draft Order approving the Boundary Commission’s final recommendations was laid before Parliament on 26 February 2007 and was subject to the affirmative procedure. The House of Commons considered the draft Order on 27 March 2007 in the Fourth Delegated Legislation Committeeand was formally approved by the House on 16 April 2007. The House of Lords approved the draft Order on 17 May 2007 with the approved Order being made on 13 June 2007 and coming into force 14 days after that.