The Conservatives grip on power at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has slipped further after their defeat in a by-election on Thursday.
Voters in the Speldhurst and Bidborough ward elected the Tunbridge Wells restaurateur, Matthew Sankey (pictured below) from the Tunbridge Wells Alliance Party, who won 50% of the vote.
The Conservatives now have 23 seats on the council and are outnumbered by the opposition parties who have 25 seats, which means the Conservatives may struggle to get their key policies approved.
Years of drama over an abandoned theatre project and controversy over large-scale housebuilding plans on green fields have worn down the Conservative’s normally rock solid majority in the Borough.
The by-election was triggered by the death of the sitting Conservative Councillor Julian Stayner. The Conservative candidate this time was his daughter Rowena Stayner, who won 46%.
The Liberal Democrats didn’t stand, while Labour won 4%.
The ward of Speldhurst and Bidborough has 3 seats in total. Lucy Willis was elected for the Alliance in the seat in 2019 (when she defeated the then Conservative head of the Council, David Jukes) while Harry Allen was elected for the Conservatives last May.
The seat also covers parts of Groombridge, Langton Green and Ashurst.
Turnout on Thursday was 34.7%.
NOVEMBER 2021 RESULT:
|Rowena Stanyer||Con||730||46%||Not elected|
|Aleksander Klimanski||Labour||65||4%||Not elected|
MAY 2021 RESULT
|Matthew Sankey||Alliance||626||15%||Not elected|
|Anne Backshell||Alliance||486||12%||Not elected|
|Clare Himmer||Green||311||8%||Not elected|
|Jeremy Stirling||Lib Dem||290||7%||Not elected|
|Martin Brice||Lib Dem||246||6%||Not elected|
|Millie Gray||Labour||176||4%||Not elected|
|Anne Musker||Labour||174||4%||Not elected|
Back in May, the Conservative Party lost its overall majority on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for the first time in twenty years.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) has put forward plans for thousands of houses in the Capel area, filling in much farmland between Tonbridge and Paddock Wood in order to meet central government housing targets.
Anger among local residents led to the Conservatives losing the seat of Capel in May to the Liberal Democrats who won 75% of the vote in that ward.