Green Party activist and parish councillor Sid Phelps has won a seat from a UKIP councillor in a by-election in the Forest of Dean, doubling the presence of Greens on the district council.
Sid, a former Oxford City Green councillor said the lesson from the campaign was prepare early and get a good local candidate: “I’m convinced we can win anywhere, provided we get a good candidate and get a good run on them,” he said.
Sid’s move to the Forest of Dean was a return to his home, where he grew up, and he said that being a “local boy” definitely helped in the election.
He has been a parish councillor in the area for several years already.
“People know me and they know I’m not a bad ‘un. The Forest of Dean has its own culture. We’re a bit feisty. It’s hard work to stop people voting out of tribal loyalty – Labour or Conservative or UKIP because they are angry.”
“The UKIP candidate admitted that I deserved to win because we had done most work. To be honest, their leaflets were sh*t. Just the usual ‘Make Britain Great’ stuff chuntered out from some template.
“We came along with a local candidate. I said, this is what we want to do, I love the area, I’ve got a track record.”
They also prepared early: “We had our nomination papers in and our first leaflet at the printers on the same day that Labour selected,” said Sid.
Two of Sid’s campaign promises – to bring back beavers as a flood prevention measure and to restore a shut down long distance pathway – have stirred a lot of local press coverage and are already making waves.
“It’s crazy,” he said speaking while walking his dog in the Forest, two weeks after the election, “I’ve been in the papers three times today.”
The beaver reintroduction plan was a Forestry Commission initiative. Sid said: “I’m getting all the credit for it. Ecologists love it but ordinary people are a little bit bemused. But there has been flash flooding of the Lydbrook so there is a real problem.”
The Forestry Commission seemed initially reluctant to bring forward their beaver plan. Sid says “They seemed to want to do it in their own sweet time. Well now I’ve been elected it seems to have accelerated a bit. They’re having a public meeting this week!”
Similarly, engineers have been commissioned to do a feasibility study on rebuilding the “unsafe” bridge that brought about the closure of the long distance footpath.
Meanwhile Sid, who sits on the “Boar Solutions Committee” may have come up with a solution to the boar problem. Wild boars in the district have been coming out of the woods and digging up the turf on cricket pitches and roadside verges, apparently in search of their favourite snack, chafer grubs. Sid has found some cash to do trials with a natural predator of the chafer grub, which can be sprinkled on the turf in liquid form.
As one person tweeted on the night of the election result “Ents defeat Saruman in Forest of Dean.”