TWENTY years of Conservative control of the Poole town ward has been overturned by surprise by-election winner Mark Howell of Poole People.

The borough’s newest political party has won its first seat on Borough of Poole, taking that held by the late Conservative council leader Brian Leverett since 1987.

Polling 463 votes Mark Howell beat Tory candidate Tony Reeves by 25 votes with his new political party, which aims to fight over-development and restore a sense of civic pride.

“The huge scale of redevelopment that is proposed for the town centre threatens to deprive Poole of its distinctiveness and identity,” said Poole’s newest councillor.

“I will work hard to focus the town centre back on its historic assets of marine activity, craftsmanship and tourism, and to make it a more enjoyable place for the people of Poole to spend time.”

Cllr Peter Adams, Conservative agent, described it as a typical by-election “freak result”, but said residents had given a clear message.

“We need to do more in telling the local community what is actually happening with planning protection and make sure we do have sympathetic, suitable development,” he said.

Cllr Mike Brooke, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, whose candidate Peter England came third with 213 votes, said their vote had held up.

“It’s a damning indictment of the current administration’s performance over the last seven years. Clearly there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the way planning decisions have been handled and local views ignored,” he said.

Arctic conditions contributed to a turnout of 17.37 per cent of the 7,000-strong electorate, with 1,406 ballot papers issued.

The results were:

Peter England – Lib Dem 213; Mark Howell – Poole People 463; William Kimmet – BNP 32; Avril King – UKIP 55; Tony Reeves – Conservative 438; Jason Sanderson – Labour 201.

Conservatives retain overall control of the borough with 22 members, there are 17 Lib Dems and two Independents.