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Next Westminster election had been due to see major changes to boundaries

The Boundary Commission released proposals on re-drawing the electoral map last year with a reduction to 17 constituencies

THE next Westminster election, which until yesterday had been expected to be another three years away, had been due to see major changes to the north's constituency boundaries.

The Boundary Commission had proposed reducing the number of constituencies from 18 to 17.

The review was part of a wider plan to reduce MP numbers from 650 to 600 by the next Westminster election, which had been due to be held in 2020 before Theresa May's surprise announcement.

Four public hearings were held across the north at the end of last year as part of a public consultation process.

On its website, the Boundary Commission states that it is required to submit its report on final recommendations to the Secretary of State no later than October 1 next year.

The changes are aimed at making every UK constituency roughly equal in terms of voter numbers.

Most controversially, the proposals released last September suggested that Belfast would lose one of its four MPs, with South Belfast to be divided between an enlarged East Belfast and a new South-West Belfast constituency.

A North-West Belfast seat would also be created, while Londonderry would disappear from constituency names.

It sparked an angry reaction from sitting SDLP South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell, who said he was "stridently opposed" to the plan to abolish his constituency.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, the North Belfast MP, accused the Boundary Commission of "taking a machete" to the north's electoral map.

Under the recommendations, redrawn and renamed constituencies seats outside the city would include Dalriada, Glenshane, North Tyrone, Upper Bann and Blackwater, West Antrim and West Down.

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