Polling stations review

Wednesday August 14th 2019

Kings Park School

King’s Park Primary school is proposed to be no longer used as a polling station.

Written by Midlothian View Editor, Phil Bowen

Midlothian Council is consulting on the buildings it intends to use as polling stations in future elections.

The consultation, which starts on Wednesday 14 August, is a compulsory review of polling districts and places which must take pace every five years and is required before the end of January 2020.

Dr Grace Vickers became Midlothian’s new Chief Executive last August and at the same time assumed the role of Midlothian’s Returning Officer. Writing in her formal response to the review Dr Vickers said:

“While new to the post of Returning Officer, I am informed by my Election Team that following the Midlothian Council Elections in 2017 and the UK General Election 2017 that they are unaware of any electoral dissatisfaction regarding the location of Polling Places.

“However, I understand that there continues to be complaints arising from the use of school premises on the basis that it impacts on children’s education and often parents have to arrange child care on an election day.

“Accordingly, I note that Midlothian Council’s Corporate Management Team has agreed that the Review’s remit include minimising the use of school premises which have to be closed on polling days, provided that there are no significant additional financial implications for the Council.”

“We’re trying to minimise the number of schools we are using to avoid them being closed on polling day to pupils.

“Also, some buildings we have used in the past are no longer available to us so although the review is compulsory, it is also necessary.

“Buildings obviously need to be accessible for all electors including those with a disability. We also need to take into account any cost implications of using particular buildings.”

New proposals include five new venues, among them Edinburgh College (Eskbank Campus), St John’s & King’s Park Church and Dalkeith Miners Club.

The proposed changes will likely be welcomed by parents, schools and Parent Councils across Midlothian, many of whom, such as King’s Park Parent Council, have asked the council to reconsider using schools for the last 10 years.

The proposed changes put forward by Dr Grace Vickers are:

Ward 1 – Penicuik

At the By-Election held in 2018, electors at Polling District MS1B – Cornbank Primary School and also MS1C – Cuiken Primary School voted at The Penicuik Centre. This arrangement worked well and allows the two primary schools to remain open on polling days. I welcome the proposal to merge the two Districts and for electors to use The Penicuik Centre.

The Polling District will be named MS1B.

Ward 2 – Bonnyrigg

Currently MN2C – Lasswade Primary School is the only Polling Place in Midlothian where electors with a disability access the Polling Stations via a separate entrance from other electors. This is clearly unsatisfactory and the proposal to merge MN2B and MN2C with all electors voting at Lasswade Community Campus is therefore welcome.

The Polling District will be named MN2B.

Electors at MN2D will continue to use Bonnyrigg Primary School as I note that the proposals include using only the Community Rooms with access via a separate entrance for electors which will enable the school to remain open on polling days.

The proposal that the substantial new house building identified in the Housing Land Audit (2018) Site – HS12, be accommodated in the adjacent existing Polling District MN2G – Burnbrae Primary School is sensible as the school has capacity in the School Gym (where voting takes place) to take these additional electors. On polling days the school can operate normally except from not having use of the Gym.

Ward 3 – Dalkeith

I welcome the proposal that electors at MN3B – King’s Park Primary School, vote at St John’s & King’s Park Church which will allow the school to remain open on election days – this is, of course, subject to MN5A electors transferring to Edinburgh College – see Ward 5 below.

The proposal to merge Polling Districts MN3C – Cowden Pavilion and MN3D – St David’s RC Primary School with all electors voting at Dalkeith Miners Club is welcome as it will allow the primary school to remain open on election days and also allow all electors in the Woodburn area to vote at one central location.The Polling District will be named MN3C.

Ward 4 – Midlothian West

I note that electors at MS4B – Glencorse Primary School, will merge with MS4C – Mauricewood Primary School and all will vote in the Community Rooms within Beeslack High School.Subject to satisfactory parking arrangements being made for voters, including a row of the car park being reserved for them, plus additional external temporary barriers being erected to segregate voters from school pupils, I would support this proposal.

The Polling District will be named MS4B.

I note that electors at MN4E – St Matthews Primary School will now vote at Rosewell Pavilion. This will allow the school to remain open on polling days and I therefore support this proposal.

I support the proposal at Loanhead to merge MN4G and MN4H. Both polling districts previously voted in a congested area at the former Paradykes Primary School. I note these electors will now vote at the more suitable new Loanhead Centre. As access is being taken via the public entrance and through the Library to the school gym – where voting will take place – this will allow the school, apart from the gym, to operate normally on polling days.The Polling District will be named MN4G.

Ward 5 – Midlothian East

The opening of the Newbattle Community Campus (and the closure of Mayfield Leisure Centre) provides the opportunity to merge three Polling Districts MN5B – St David’s Primary School; MN5C – Lawfield Primary School; and MN5D – Mayfield Leisure Centre. This new large polling district will hopefully mirror the successful use over the past few years of The Lasswade Centre in Bonnyrigg. I would support this proposal.The Polling District will be named MN5B.

For many years electors in Polling District MN5A have required to travel to King’s Park Primary School to vote. This building is outwith the polling area and I therefore welcome the proposal to relocate the Polling Place to the Edinburgh College in Eskbank, especially given the recent large amount of new house building in Eskbank.This will also mean that, provided polling District MN3B (see electoral ward 3 above) is also relocated to St John’s & King’s Park Church, the Primary School will now remain open on Polling Days.

Ward 6 – Midlothian South

I note and support the proposal to merge MS6C – Newbattle Community Learning Centre with the nearby MS6D – Newtongrange Church Hall. The resultant enlarged electorate can be accommodated within Newtongrange Church Halls.

The Polling District will be named MS6C.

I note that new and projected house building at the southern end of Gorebridge is being accommodated by enlarging the Polling District served by Birkenside Pavilion. The existing electors to the south of Lady Brae Road who currently vote at MS6E – Gorebridge Leisure Centre, will transfer to MS6F – Birkenside Pavilion. The additional electors will easily be accommodated at the Pavilion.

A small area of land in the Housing Land Audit (2018) – HS12 which is zoned for future housing – is just outwith Ward 2 – Bonnyrigg and located in Ward 6 – Midlothian South. If it is developed, the new electors there would currently require to vote at the remote Temple Village Polling Place. Accordingly, I agree that, for elector convenience, such electors should vote at Burnbrae Primary School in Ward 2 – it would, of course, require to have a separate ballot box for Council Elections.

The Electoral Registration Officer has coded this small area of land as Polling District MS6H.

You can tell the council what you think about the new proposals by visiting the consultations page at www.midlothian.gov.uk/polling-places-review where you will find associated plans and supporting documents.

Paper copies are available in main council buildings including Midlothian House reception, Dalkeith, Gorebridge Library and libraries at The Lasswade Centre, Newbattle Community Campus, The Loanhead Centre and The Penicuik Centre.

Comments must be sent to the council by Wednesday 25 September 2019 to be considered. However, the documents will be available to view until 17 December 2019.

If you have views on where polling places should be located in Midlothian or any other polling station concerns, please email elections@midlothian.gov.uk.

All responses will be analysed and included in a report to be debated by elected members at the Midlothian Council Meeting on Tuesday 17 December 2019 in Dalkeith.

If you prefer to write to the council then you can do so using the address below:

Election Team
Midlothian House
Midlothian Council
40-46 Buccleuch Street
Dalkeith
EH22 1 DN

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