Independents try to wrest control from the Tories in both Heathfield South and North in the local elections May 4

27th April

The local Wealden Council election on May 4 will see three independent candidates join in the battle to win in both Heathfield North & South. Kevin Benton takes on Conservative Tom Guyton-Day in Heathfield South and Mike Gadd and Mian Naz take on Ray Cade, Conservative, David Newman, Labour in Heathfield North.

Heathfield is a rural town in East Sussex and it is currently undergoing pressures on infrastructure, new house building challenges, the survival of the High Street, flooding issues, loss of green spaces, pressure on services like schools and doctors and very poor access to transport to surrounding areas especially to areas of higher employment opportunities. There is plenty for candidates to focus on. We approached all candidates and have produced a round up from those who responded.

Heathfield South

Kevin Benton

Kevin Benton is standing as an Independent candidate for Heathfield South. He lives in Cross in Hand and is a member of Heathfield & Waldron RFC and plays guitar with local bands. He is retired but previously owned a successful engineering company.

He is concerned about the level of greenfield development and the impact it has on infrastructure. Kevin has a three point plan to address the lack of a local plan and will protect the AONB whilst addressing the infrastructure shortfall. This isn’t his first attempt at being elected, having gained 40% in the May 2021 elections he really hopes to be able to win this time amd work for the benefit of the people of Heathfield and effect some tangible change.

For Kevin ‘land banking’ is one of the most significant contributors to the housing shortage. Developers gain permisson for developments which they then sit on, ‘banking’ the land and not providing the much needed homes. This pushes up prices and is something Kevin would very much like to see the end of.

Tom Guyton-Day

Tom is standing for the Conservatives, he attended Heathfield Community College, and studied Economics in Leicester and a master’s at University of Exeter. He is involved in his local scout group’s executive committee, focusing on fundraising for the group and is focused on improving the lives of local people, especially young people.

He is committed to the environment, planting over 100 trees last year and digging a new pond for wildlife to use. He has also lobbied the Council to make sure all new builds have solar panels and are fitted with bird and bat boxes as standard, alongside other schemes to support wildlife including wildlife ponds. Tom is also keen to support healthier lifestyles with investment in the Cuckoo Trail a key part of that.

Tom has been Councillor for Heathfield South since May 2021 and he believes in keeping taxes low to make sure more money is kept in people’s pockets, protecting our countryside from development – having prevented all greenfield development in Heathfield South with the brownfield first approach, and is committed to supporting local businesses by keeping parking free in Heathfield as well as the rest of Wealden. “It’s important we do so, to help businesses and our local economy – especially our excellent high street,” commented Tom.

Heathfield North

Mike Gadd

Mike, who has lived in Heathfield for over 40 years, is standing as an Independent candidate for the Heathfield North Ward. His working career has been in the food production sector, locally, nationally and in Europe.

He helps run Broad Oak Junior and Senior Table Tennis Clubs and has worked on local projects to install outdoor Table Tennis tables in their community spaces offering free coaching session in the summer months.

“I am concerned about local concerns around increased traffic, shortages of doctors, the loss of Broad Oak School, the loss of green fields in the AONB.

“My journey into local politics started in 2015 through my interest in planning and currently through my well known campaigning website, I have regular contact with Wealden councillors and residents. In 2019 I participated in the Wealden District Local Plan Examination and spoke about the High Weald ANOB and Housing. In 2022 I have attended several Planning Appeals and conveyed resident’s views, and regularly attend HWPC Planning meeting as a resident.

“I now feel it is time for me to take the next step … into a Wealden District Councillor role. As an Independent I will not be associated to any political party, and I will represent all residents in equal measure. ” commented Mike.

His top six priorities will be:

  1. To maintain pressure within Wealden District Council to deliver and implement the new Local Plan as soon as possible, and that it represents and reflects the views and wishes of residents:
  1. To push to further enhance the transparency of Wealden District Council in line with residents’ expectations:
  1. To continually, position and reflect to the Council that planning policies should first and foremost be based on local needs:
  1. To continually represent the views of Heathfield people to the Council and be ready willing and able to communicate them ‘upwards’ through the different layers of Parish, District and the National political system:
  1. To challenge, anything that is detrimental to the natural and built environment of Wealden and the High Weald Area of Natural Beauty and does not represent the views of its residents:

6. To strengthen community engagement

David Newman

David Newman has lived in Heathfield since 2009 and he works locally. He is standing as the Labour candidate and if he is elected the representative for Heathfield North he would work towards making Heathfield and Wealden a greener and fairer place for everyone who lives, works, studies and visits the town. 

As the local Labour councillor his policies would be –

·       To ensure a more balanced approach to Planning taking into far greater account local infrastructure, the environment and the needs of local residents for affordable housing

·       To place the demands arising from the Climate Emergency at the forefront of Council decisions, policies, discussions and planning

·       To work to make sure that all available help is made readily accessible to all residents and businesses suffering hardship

·       To challenge and change entrenched thinking with regard housing and business development

·       To access any available support for the enrichment of the area

·       To protect and improve leisure facilities, local travel, parking and other public services.

“I hope that May 4th sees a change in local politics and that this will be to the benefit of Heathfield North and Wealden as a whole,” commented David.

Ray Cade

Ray has lived in Heathfield with his family for 32 years, with his children attending local schools.

For the past six years he has been Chairman of the Heathfield & District Street and School Pastors, overseeing weekly street patrols and regular visits by the School Pastors to Heathfield Community College.

Also, for some years. He has been a member of the Heathfield Youth Club and Wealden Works committees (the latter supports young people struggling to find employment, get into work).

Ray explained: “For the past four years I have been a Wealden District Council Cabinet member responsible for the Council Housing (nearly 3100 social/affordable rent and retirement properties), Benefits and Waste Management portfolios.

“If elected I will continue to be involved with Heathfield young people, to provide facilities for them in order to discourage anti-social behaviour. petty crime and alcohol/drugs abuse, in the town.

“Due to recent incidents, I am also working with Trading Standards to make residents, especially the vulnerable, more aware of the risks of engaging “cold callers”. Heathfield is a “no cold caller” zone (2010), but there needs to be more information and effective warnings.”

Ray also intends to establish a “No itinerant sales people” zone, in order to deal with unwanted and obstructive salesmen selling poor quality items on Bonfire procession evening.

He has been involved in Wealden planning committees for many years and blocked inappropriate and excessive residential development. On the other hand he has tried to promote much need affordable housing for local people, along with supporting and encouraging successful businesses to provide employment opportunities.

He believes he has the knowledge, experience and determination to effectively represent Heathfield residents to ensure it is a place where people want to live.

Mian Naz – we haven’t been able to get any further information about this candidate, but we believe he is standing as an independent.