A look at the battleground of Norwich South
PUBLISHED: 10:06 06 April 2015 | UPDATED: 11:06 06 April 2015
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Norwich South is the 18th most marginal seat in the UK and is one of the most interesting and tightly fought contests in the East of England.
It is arguably a four-way marginal seat with it being second on the Greens’ target list, sixth on Labour’s and 44th for the Conservatives and it is third on the Lib Dems’ defence list.
The Liberal Democrats won the seat for the first time in 2010 with Simon Wright securing a slim majority of 310.
Previously Labour’s strongest seat in Norfolk, it was held by former home secretary Charles Clarke from 1997 and had been in Labour hands since 1983. Clive Lewis is hoping to take it back.
The Conservatives have not held the seat since the early 1980s but last time round were just over 3,000 votes off taking the seat. This time Lisa Townsend is hoping for success.
The seat is the Green Party’s second target seat in the country after retaining Brighton Pavilion where their single MP, Caroline Lucas, sat from 2010. The then deputy leader of the party, Adrian Ramsey, contested the seat in 2010 – picking up nearly 15pc of the vote and this year’s candidate, Lesley Grahame, is hoping to ride the “green surge” and become the party’s second MP.
UKIP is hoping its candidate, Stephen Emmens, who got 2.4pc of the vote last time, will secure a larger share following the national trend which has seen UKIP overtake the Lib Dems in national polls.
What the area looks like
The constituency is a densely populated, largely urban seat and has a young population.
Much of the city centre comes within the boundary of the ward including City Hall, the railway station and the main shopping area.
There is much suburban housing packed into areas such as the Golden Triangle, New Costessey and Eaton.
The constituency has a population of 96,395 according to the 2011 census, 34pc of whom are under 24 – making it one of the youngest populations in Norfolk.
Those claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance in the constituency represent 2.9pc of the constituency, broadly in line with the national average at 2.8pc.
The constituency helped give Norwich the title of the Most Godless City in the Country, with 42pc in Norwich South stating they had no religion in the 2011 census.
The area comprises the Norwich City Council wards of Bowthorpe, Eaton, Lakenham, Mancroft, Nelson, Thorpe Hamlet, Town Close, University and Wensum and the South Norfolk Council wards of Cringleford and Colney.
With the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich University of the Arts and City College Norwich, the seat has a significant student population. The student vote undoubtedly helped secure the seat for the Liberal Democrats in 2010, but since the party went against its manifesto pledge not to increase tuition fees, support has drifted away from the party among students.
Norwich has a high level of retention for students staying in the region after study so former students continue to have a real impact in voting terms in the constituency after they have graduated.
The rate of development in the constituency has been swift – so much so that Costessey became a town in January 2015 and the Riverside development of luxury flats continues apace.
There is a significant proportion of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in the constituency and affordable housing will be a concern for many young families trying to get on the property ladder or find somewhere to rent outside of shared living.
The Golden Triangle and Eaton remain some of Norwich’s most upmarket and accordingly expensive areas. There is disparity in house prices across the seat with areas like West Earlham and Tuckswood being less expensive.
Infrastructure investment is a big issue, with residents worried that levels of development have not been met with improvements in the roads and public service provision.
In areas with a large amount of social housing such as Bowthorpe, the so-called Bedroom Tax is an issue for those who are receiving less housing benefit if they have a spare bedroom.
With much of the city centre within its boundary, Norwich South is an economic centre in the region with many people coming to work here.
The city’s largest employer, Aviva, is based in the seat and many jobs in services and retail are also based here.
With both the city council and county council in the constituency, those employed in public services are higher than average and cuts to local government are a hot topic within this demographic.
The Norwich Research Park in Colney is based here and nearly 3,000 scientists work in places including the John Innes Centre and the Food Research Institute.
With the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in neighbouring South Norfolk, many of those who work at the hospital live in Norwich South. The N&N was one of many hospitals across the country which was on “Black Alert” this winter following pressure on its A&E department.
With the railway station in the constituency the prospect of “Norwich in 90” is something which will be a hot topic for many on the doorstep making the commute to London. The ambition for faster rail services to London will make travelling more manageable and increase opportunities for businesses.
The area around Recreation Road and The Avenues contains the catchment of many good schools and places are hotly contested.
The controversy surrounding Hewett School being forced to become an academy by the government will resonate with many whose children attend the school.
• The confirmed candidates so far are: Steve Emmens (UKIP), Lesley Grahame (Green), Stan Grant (Class War), Clive Lewis (Labour), Lisa Townsend (Conservative) and Simon Wright (Liberal Democrats). Nominations close on Thursday, April 9.