COMMENT: Ten wards to watch in Horsham District Council elections

Park North, Horsham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin ENGSUS00120121227161019
Park North, Horsham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin ENGSUS00120121227161019

Will there be shocks and surprises when the results of the Horsham District Council elections are announced today?

Although controlled by the Lib Dems briefly in the mid 1990s the council is solidly Tory with the party holding almost three-quarters of seats. As it is the only party fielding the maximum 44 candidates they will be hoping to maintain or even increase their representation as three independents are not seeking re-election.

But UKIP will hope today represents a breakthrough for them on the council as they currently have only one councillor, who defected from the Tories in 2013, while the Lib Dems will also be looking to capitalise on any local dissatisfaction with the Tories.

Counting will be starting at 5pm at Bluecoats Sports and Leisure Centre and wards will be announced on a result by result basis. To keep up to date check our website, but in the meantime we have put together this guide for the wards to watch this afternoon:

Chanctonbury

Then Tory deputy leader Roger Arthur defected to UKIP in early 2013, and while his party will hope to gain seats across the district, Graham Croft-Smith will be looking to be returned in his place, as Mr Arthur is standing in Roffey South this time around.

Chantry

Held by three Conservatives. However in a 2013 by-election, held at the same time as the county council poll, Tory Diana Van Der Klugt was returned with just 80 more votes than UKIP’s Peter Westrip. Mr Westrip is standing and will hope to prevail this time, perhaps instead of Paul Marshall who is standing for the Tories instead of Mrs Van Der Klugt. This ward is also where Ray Dawe, leader of the council, is standing.

Denne

David Sheldon, one of the councillors for Denne, resigned from the Lib Dems last year and is restanding as an independent, while Tory Laurence Deakins is not restanding. The Tories will hope to take both seats with Tony Hogden and Adrian Lee, while Stephen Tall will be looking to take one back for the Lib Dems.

Henfield

The pick of the seats. Sheila Matthews announced she was standing down as an independent after 20 years, while Helena Croft was picked by the Arundel and South Downs Conservative Association as a candidate just months after being dumped from her current Roffey North seat by the Horsham Conservative Association. Mike Morgan will be standing as an independent in Mrs Matthews place, while Tory chairman of the council Brian O’Connell will look to be returned by the voters.

Horsham Park

In 2011 this ward returned two Lib Dems, Frances Haigh and David Holmes, and one Conservative Josh Murphy. But the candidates’ in order was Lib Dem (876 votes), Tory (798), Lib Dem (785), Tory (759), Tory (712), Lib Dem (564), Labour (507), Labour (409), Labour (437). If the scenario is roughly repeated it will not take much of a swing either way to radically alter the results. David Skipp, currently a Lib Dem councillor in Roffey North is standing in Horsham Park this time. Dr Holmes meanwhile announced he was not restanding last year.

Pulborough and Coldwaltham

Currently both held by Conservatives but Roger Paterson is retiring, and his potential successor Paul Clarke and other incumbent Brian Donnelly will face a challenge from Green candidate Martin Dale, and UKIP’s John Wallace and Liz Wallace. Mr Wallace polled more than 1,000 votes in 2013’s county council elections in the Pulborough division, but still came more than 200 votes behind Tory Pat Arculus.

Roffey North

Although UKIP did not pick up any county council seats in the Horsham district in 2013, they ran the Tories close in many areas. Jim Rae, then a Conservative took the Roffey division from the Lib Dems but polled just 26 votes ahead of his UKIP challenger. As he admitted at the count had the UKIP candidate done any leaflet dropping he probably would have lost. Neither incumbents Dr Skipp or Mrs Croft are restanding in this ward, leaving it open for two new councillors. Jonathan Dancer and Alan Britten will hope to take both for the Tories, Nik Butler is standing as one of the few independent candidates, the Lib Dems will hope to hold at least one of the two seats, and UKIP will hope this is one of the places they make inroads.

Roffey South

Roy Cornell and Simon Torn are the two Tory incumbents, but they face a challenge from UKIP in Mr Arthur, his party’s general election candidate for Horsham, and Tony Rickett, vice chairman of North Horsham Parish Council.

Rudgwick

The only seat in the whole of the district where just two candidates are going head to head. Conservative incumbent John Bailey will be going up against Green candidate Graham Avery.

Southwater

Held by three Tories, all of whom are standing again. They are Claire Vickers, Ian Howard and John Chidlow. Development has been a massive issue with almost 600 homes approved west of the village earlier this year, although the housebuilder in question put forward plans for 2,750 on the same site. Gary Charman, former player and manager at Horsham FC is standing as a Lib Dem following the council’s decision to refuse plans for a new ground for the club at Hop Oast, as is independent Roger Smith, a prominent figure at the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Horsham district branch, and vocal critic of the Government’s new planning laws. This is another place where UKIP hope to make inroads with Chris Heath, a long-time GP in Horsham, and Neil Whitear, chairman of the party’s Horsham branch, standing.