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Council leader David Jukes loses seat to Lucy Willis of the Tunbridge Wells Alliance

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The leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has been defeated by a new political party set up in protest of a multi-million development in the town.

Tunbridge Wells Alliance has gained five seats, including Lucy Willis who won against former leader David Jukes with a landslide.

This is seen as a symbol of support against the controversial £90 million plans for a theatre and council offices in Caverley Square.

David Jukes. Picture: Sean Aidan
David Jukes. Picture: Sean Aidan

Despite this, the Conservatives' plan for the Calverley ground has been given the go ahead by planning inspectorate.

The Compulsory Purchase Orders for the project has been approved by planning inspectorate Graham Dudley due to a "compelling case in public interest".

Chairman of the TWA, Bob Atwood, said the support for his party is a sign residents are dissatisifed with the current leadership.

Mr Atwood previously ran the council with the Conservative party before he was ousted in 2012 by Ukip.

He said: "The result was much better than we dared hope.

"I think it illustrates exactly how people in Tunbridge Wells are feeling at the moment.

"They are feeling discontented with their existing councillors, mostly because of the theatre project, which a lot of people feel they can't afford and don't want.

"Also because of the attitude of councillors towards them when they've objected."

Cabinet member Tracy Moore (Con) also lost her seat to the party, after facing start criticism for her part in the Caverley Grounds plans.

She told the LDRS how she had done all she could to rally up support over the last few months and she is disappointed at the results.

Liberal Democrats also took five seats from the Conservatives with Marguerita Morton ousting county councillor Peter Oakford with a 59% share of the vote.

Trevor Poile (Lib Dem) will be rejoining the borough council after five years to represent Southborough North.

He said: "This is a little bit of a surprise because this has been a hard ward for Liberal Democrats to win in the past.

"I've held it historically but I've found it was almost a perfect storm for the Conservatives."

The Conservatives have lost more than 1,000 council seats across the country.

Mr Poile added: "Nationally they weren't doing well but also locally there are issues locally with the Southborough hub, which has been presented to residents and the civic centre.

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark said local and national issues have seen Conservatives become more unpopular.

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark

He added: "I think that's the reason why this result has happened today."

"It was clearly a very disappointing night for Conservatives and I am sad to have lost dedicated and hard working councillors. It was tough to fight these elections against a backdrop of frustration over Brexit and some controversial local issues, and I admire the personal efforts that candidates made despite this.

"David Jukes has served our borough with energy and passion, over nearly 30 years, including as mayor and latterly leader of the council. David has always been straight talking and clear sighted and I applaud his huge contribution to our borough."

But he went on: "I congratulate all councillors elected and wish them well in their vital work of representing the people of our wonderful area."

Mr Jukes is by no means the only major electoral casualty today, with Swale leader Andrew Bowles and Canterbury chief Simon Cook also losing their seats.

For live updates on the local elections results in Kent, click here.

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