A LIBERAL Democrat stormed to victory in Thursday’s by-election for the Lovelace ward at Ripley Village Hall.
This is the first time in 40 years that the seat, which represents Ripley, Wisley and Ockham, has not been held by the Conservatives.
In the Lovelace by-election, called following the death of Councillor John Garrett in July, Colin Cross more than doubled the count of his runner-up (with 555 votes to Conservative Ben Paton’s 225) while UKIP’s David Sheppard and Labour’s Robin Woof trailed way behind with 63 and 32 votes respectively.
With a 48 per cent rise in turnout, 878 ballots were cast. In terms of population, Lovelace is one of the smallest wards in the borough.
Cross, a Guildford Green Belt Group supporter, is thought to have been the overwhelmingly popular choice among voters due to the contentious Local Plan that encroaches on green-belt land.
Historically, Lovelace has been one of the safest Conservative seats on Guildford Borough Council. It has not been held by a Lib Dem councillor since a council reshuffle in 1974.
Councillor Cross (left), who was standing for the first time, said: “I honestly can’t thank everyone enough for all the efforts they put into the campaign.
“Thank you to everyone who voted for me. I look forward to joining the Lib Dem team on the council, where I will continue to work hard for the residents of Ripley, Ockham and Wisley.”
Lib Dem Group Leader on Woking Borough Council, Will Forster, added: “It’s an astounding result for Colin Cross and the local Lib Dems.
“It clearly shows just how unhappy local residents are with the behaviour of the Conservatives, who seem intent on sacrificing our green belt and concreting over much of the Surrey countryside.”
“Following this by-election win, focus will now switch to Woking Borough Council’s plans to build at least 500 homes in the green belt.
“Just like Colin Cross and the Lib Dems in Ripley, the local Lib Dems in Woking are leading the fight against Tory plans to undermine the green belt in Brookwood, Byfleet, Mayford, Hook Heath, Pyrford and West Byfleet.”
The number of Lib Dem seats on Guildford Borough Council has now increased to 13, while there are 33 Conservatives and two Labour.