Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 11:48 UK

Castle, hair salon and cottage - unusual places to vote

By Katie Dawson
BBC News

Peter Hodgkinson outside his cottage near Rochdale
Peter Hodgkinson's cottage has been used as a polling station for 34 years

While most people will cast their vote in a school, village hall or community centre, some voters will be treated to more unusual surroundings.

A hair salon, a 17th Century castle and the dining room of a cottage are some of the quirkier places in England that will double up as polling stations for the 2010 general and local elections.

In Rochdale, Greater Manchester, Peter and Christine Hodgkinson are opening up their home to the 454 voters in the rural Catley Lane Head area.

The couple's three-bedroom cottage has been used as a polling station for 34 years.

'Social gathering'

Mr Hodgkinson, 66, a presiding officer for elections, said he always looked forward to transforming his dining room into a polling station.

"Because of the area that we are in, a lot of people come and we have a natter because we do not see them one year to the next so it's like a social gathering," he said.

"When people come for the first time they cannot believe where they are coming to.

"Because it's a polling station, it's an official building for the day.

"People are told to just walk in but it's amazing how many people knock before they come in, which is quite nice."

Elite hair salon on Portland, Dorset
It is the first time Elite hair salon on Portland, Dorset, has been used

Meanwhile, the hair dryers and scissors at the Elite salon on Portland in Dorset will be packed away to make room for the ballot box.

This is the first time the salon has been used and was chosen following the closure of Portland's more traditional polling station.

Salon manager Hayley Kerr said: "The church that's normally used across the road has been closed down so they needed to look for somewhere that was a similar size.

"Where we are, there's not a lot of businesses or places so they came here to have a look around.

"We have a free car park, disabled access and there's enough room to have it here. It was nice that we could help out."

In part of Nottingham, residents cast their vote in the gatehouse of the city's famous castle.

Nottingham Castle has been used for some years and this year will accommodate 2,400 voters in the Radford and Park ward.

Below stairs

A number of caravans are being used in Dudley, West Midlands, a couple of supermarkets will turn into polling stations in the borough of Amber Valley in Derbyshire and a water pumping station will be used near Chichester, West Sussex.

It is often difficult for councils in rural areas to find venues that are large enough to accommodate polling stations.

Nottingham Castle gatehouse
Voters will get a taste of history at the Nottingham Castle polling station

Over the years, many unusual places have been used.

In the Northamptonshire village of Winwick, residents usually cast their votes in a booth under the stairs of an old school house.

Daventry District Council has yet to finalise its list of polling stations and is unable to confirm if this venue will be used again this year.

About 70 voters in the Cornish hamlet of Caerhays, in St Austell, will be able to take a stroll through the picturesque grounds at Caerhays Castle as they chose who they want as the next prime minister.

John Simmons, lead officer for the St Austell and Newquay constituency, said: "Disabled access is something we have to take into consideration.

"We know the couple who own the castle, the lady of the house is a wheelchair user so it's our understanding that everything in that building is wheelchair friendly."



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