Tunbridge Wells Alliance win Park as Tories lose two seats

Pam Mills

The Conservative Party lost two seats in tightly fought Tunbridge Wells Borough Council elections.

Nick Pope fulfilled his ambition to shake up local politics by winning a seat on Park ward from the Tories for the Tunbridge Wells Alliance.

The new political party, formed primarily in opposition to the planned £90million Civic Complex and theatre, fared well in the seven wards they contested while Liberal Democrat Mark Ellis won St John’s from Conservative Nasir Jamil.

Mr Pope won the seat, which covers Calverley Grounds, by 143 votes, from Catherine Rankin, who had warned the Alliance against handing out fairy cakes during their election campaign.

‘This result shows the Alliance is in tune with what residents are thinking,’ said Mr Pope. ‘It is largely about the Civic Complex.

‘We have only been a party for ten weeks so it is an incredible achievement. I am sure some people will be very surprised.’

The Conservatives, however, won 12 out of 16 seats on offer and their overall control of the 48-seat local authority was never going to be troubled as only a third of the seats were being contested.

It might have been worse for the party had Cllr Chris Woodward not clung onto Broadwater by just eight votes.

In other closely fought seats, the Conservatives took Sherwood through Cllr Bob Backhouse and David Scott won Culverden, where Women’s Equality Party candidate Liz Orr won 15 per cent of the vote.

Lib Dem Cllr David Neve said he ‘must be doing something right,’ in taking St James’ ward to mark 35 years on the authority.

Cllr Alain Lewis re-won Southborough and High Brooms for Labour, taking over from Graham Munn, and said: “The Conservative council has forgotten about Southborough.

‘We want to stop decisions being made like knocking down Victoria Hall.’

The results mean there will be seven non-Conservative councillors.

But the Tories enjoyed success in traditional strongholds, with current Mayor Julia Soyke winning Speldhurst & Bidborough and Cllr James Scholes, set to be Mayor next year, again winning Pantiles & St Mark’s.


Conservative Cllr Tom Dawlings, on winning Benenden & Cranbrook, said: “I work hard as a councillor and I am pleased. It is a well-run borough council and from my rural ward I support the leadership in what they are doing.’

Before the result, Hugo Pound, Chair of Tunbridge Wells Labour, said: “I think the Tories will have a reduced vote.

‘They should listen to voters’ views on the Civic Complex and theatre. People have voted ABC, anything but Conservative.’

Ward winners


Elected candidate


Benenden & Cranbrook

Tom Dawlings


Brenchley & Horsmonden

Alan McDermott



Chris Woodward



David Scott


Hawkhurst & Sandhurst

Patrick Thomson


Paddock Wood (East)

Allan Gooda


Paddock Wood (West)

Elizabeth Thomas


Pantiles & St Mark’s

James Scholes



Nick Pope

Tunbridge Wells Alliance


Paul Barrington-King



Bob Backhouse


Southborough & High Brooms

Alain Lewis

Labour Party

Southborough North

Joe Simmons


Speldhurst & Bidborough

Julia Soyke


St James’

David John Neve

Liberal Democrat

St John’s

Mark Ellis

Liberal Democrat

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