Labour wins South Hampstead by-election

Tommy Gale
Tommy Gale
Top of the poll: Tommy Gale wins South Hampstead seat. Photograph: Julia Gregory

The top issue dominating the South Hampstead by-election was the controversial redevelopment of the O2 shopping centre.

Labour retained the seat with social worker Tommy Gale taking 882 votes.

The by-election was triggered after Will Prince resigned as he is moving to the US for work.

Former councillor Don Williams took second place with 766 votes for the local Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat candidate Patrick Stillman won 531 votes.

The Green party’s hope to welcome a second councillor to join Sian Berry in the council chamber was dashed when Lorna Russell won just 295 votes. The former Labour councillor joined the Greens in 2021 and lost her  Fortune Green seat in last year’s elections.

The  result means there is no dfference to the make up of the Labour-controlled council.

Despite the sunny weather the turnout was just 30.22 per cent – but seasoned town hall watchers said this is usual in a by-election.

South Hampstead  is a new ward  is made up of parts of Swiss Cottage as well as Kilburn and West Hampstead as part of the boundary shake up last year.

Whilst the O2 shopping centre is not in the ward it was certainly in the minds of voters.

They voiced their concerns with canvassers from all the parties.

The first phase of the redevelopment planning application to knock the 25-year-old centre down and replace it with  1,800 homes in tower blocks of up to 16 storeys high,  along with retail space, was approved earlier this year.

However campaigners and the Green party’s Sian Berry have written to the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State for housing asking them to use their powers to look at the scheme.

New councillor Tommy Gale said: “People are definitely upset.”

However he found the cost of living was the biggest concern for many and last year’s flooding which damaged homes in the ward was also a big worry for many.

Conservative Don Williams said the O2 really exercised voters. “So many people are against it.” He said they are really concerned about the impact on the area.

Other top issues are concerns about crime and the level of policing and he campaigned on the issue.

He said: “People are breaking into cars, breaking into houses, speeding cars. People are really fed up about it.”

Partrick Stillman said: “I think the O2 centre has really drilled down into the election and its significant in the area. People are really frustrated about it.”

Speed limits were another concern for voters with some opposed to  20mph rules.

Former deputy mayor Lorna Russell said with demands for a mayoral and ministerial call-in of the O2 “it’s not a foregone conclusion.”

She said: “It’s such a bad idea, with the density. Eighteen tower blocks and the tallest 16 storeys high, it’s the wrong type of housing for the area.”

Residents are also worried about the environmental cost of knocking down a 25-year-old building.

“The battle is far from over,” she said.

She crossed the floor from Labour in 2021 and lost her Fortune Green  seat in the May 2022 full council elections.

The current council make up is 45 Labour councillors, with five Liberal Democrats, three Conservatives and one Green.

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