May 6, 2022 4.00 pm

Independent candidate credits ‘grassroots democracy’ for surprise victory

He has opposed huge housing plans in Grimsby’s Freshney Valley

By Local Democracy Reporter

An independent candidate who caused a major election upset says his victory is grassroots democracy in action.

Steve Holland campaigned strongly against plans for thousands of homes and a relief road in the Freshney ward near Grimsby.

He was able to defeat cabinet member Callum Procter in the safe Conservative seat.

Backed by the Friends of the Freshney Valley group, he is determined to make residents’ voices heard on North East Lincolnshire Council.

“I was getting support from people who were lifelong Labour or Conservative voters, and also people who had never voted before and didn’t know where their polling station was,” Mr Holland said after his surprise victory.

“Everywhere we went, people said they were ready to see an independent candidate. So we knew it was going to be close, but we thought we might not quite make it.

“My main priority will be making clear that the plans for 4,000 homes in the area aren’t wanted and aren’t needed. I want to build a consensus that these shouldn’t go ahead.

The Friends of the Freshney Valley protest protest against housing and road plans outside Grimsby town hall | Photo: Jamie Waller.

“People feel very strongly about it. The Friends of the Freshney Valley Facebook group has 2,000 members – but we didn’t know whether that would translate to winning an election.

“The Facebook group was absolutely buzzing this morning because we had won. That’s grassroots democracy for you – it would never happen for a normal politician.”

The Freshney Valley group has held protests for months outside council meetings in Grimsby town hall.

While the housing plans are still being considered, North East Lincolnshire Council says it won’t apply for any more government funding for the relief road. Housing schemes will also be re-examined as the local plan is updated this year.

Mr Holland is also keen to stop what he says is the “decline and decay of the town centre”.

He has promised to make himself available to all residents and ensure they can contact him.

He says lack of faith in the main parties could also explain why voters were ready to back an independent candidate.

“People have definitely lost trust in politicians at the top, and there’s a lot of cynicism on a national level,” he said.

“We expect our leaders to have integrity. When you win, you can’t afford to lose people’s trust.”