Four Hundred and Forty One…

3rd June

We hear from Independent Candidate Kevin Benton who took part in the District Council By-election on 6th May 2021

441 is a number that will for ever be embedded in my mind, it is the number of voters who had trust
and voted for me in the ward of Heathfield South in May this year.
I extend a heart felt THANK YOU to you all.
I have never been a politically motivated person, my views loosely conservative, but in 2015, I
suddenly received an alert. I became aware of an underlying but deeply felt view by many that all
was not well with democracy in our Wealden area especially in the planning process.
Friends and neighbours were talking about what were clearly irrational and possibly sinister
activities. Our residents group started a programme of monitoring and recording the performance of
the officers, committee and councillors, in order to further understand whether the claims being
made had any foundation.
It did not take us long to find that decision making during the planning process was at best
undisciplined, perhaps bordering on shambolic or possibly even sinister.
Indeed there have been several successful challenges leading to a planning quashing in the High
Court the grounds were that officers had unlawfully mislead committee members.
I am not one to sit back and simply moan, my decision was made, I would stand as a candidate as
soon as I possibly could. The decision about whether to stand for a particular party took longer, but
in the end I felt I could do more for the community if a stood as an independent candidate, free to
represent the community and express their concerns without party constraints or political masters
informing what I should do. My aim is to address what, in the minds of many, was a failure of our
democracy that should and must be central to our way of life in UK.

Kevin helping out at Darches Wood near Cross in Hand

In May 2021 there were to be County Council elections but also four vacant District Council seats
were available and one in an area that I am very familiar with, Heathfield South.
I had no political party support, finance or logistical back up so expected not only a lot of foot work
but also a steep learning curve. Being a self starter I sat down, took a deep breath and researched
what I should and could do in order to effectively challenge what I and many others believe has
become a comfortable complacency for too many local councillors and for far too long.
My next step was to put in order the issues that I learned were important to the residents of
Heathfield South, I achieved this by simply walking the streets and accosting people who were
prepared to stop for a few moments and talk. Not one person refused to discuss issues that were
important to them.
Almost exclusively, but not always the starting point was that unwarranted building in and around
Heathfield and the adverse impact it has on their lives was the single most important issue.
One young mother had a real concern with the road in which her family lived always having the
pavement on both sides blocked with illegally parked cars. This forcing her to walk in a busy road
with her pram containing two children. She explained that “this has only become as dangerous since the building of new homes two years before on the corner of the very road she lives in”
Unfortunately the connection between an unwise planning decision and this lady and her two
children’s danger is not obvious to many. Indeed it is only apparent when it immediately impacts on
an individual. I have strong views on the governance at W.D.C. which was a major motivator. I now take the view that they have become convinced of their own purity. Therefore it can only be a matter of time before time things go awry.

My campaign was set, I produced a flyer and set to delivering to every single property in the ward
using the “walkabout” as a useful opportunity to engage where ever I could with residents and
really listen to their concerns.
I had one chance to land my message therefore by way of delivering my flyers, this had to impact
in order to promote my message prior to the postal voting, but not so far in advance of polling day
that any impact was lost. I managed it by the skin of my teeth with my last delivery the day that
postal votes begun to land on residents door mats.
I quickly began receiving emails and phone calls from people who clearly are disenchanted with the
level of control exerted by the local Councillors, who frequently ignore the concerns of their own
electorate. I really appreciated these contacts and responded to everyone that took the trouble to
contact me.
Unfortunately, as an independent person I didn’t have the party resources or the money to follow
this up with many other mail drops but hoped the message from my one leaflet would be seen and
Indeed it was seen by many as I returned 40% of the 1102 votes cast in the ward, I sincerely thank
each and everyone who trusted me.
Will I repeat the experience? Yes and with the knowledge and experience gained believe that I will
be well set to truly represent residents in our area.
Once again thank you to all who voted for me for a chance to address the stranglehold imposed on