RIDGEWAY is the most atypical of all Swindon’s electoral wards. 

In a borough with a large town and extensive suburbs, Ridgeway is Swindon’s rural idyll – it is the second largest ward by area and has by some distance the lowest population density. 

Its largest settlement is Wanborough – a beautiful west country village and there are a number of even smaller hamlets.

The whole area is separated from the rest of Swindon by the A419 dual carriageway. 
While voting is almost an annual ritual in the rest of Swindon, it’s a four-yearly rarity in Ridgeway – the ward’s population means it only has one councillor, unlike nearly every other ward in the borough – with most having three.

Next door Chiseldon & Lawn only has two, meaning for electoral purposes the two largely rural southern wards could be treated as one. When boundaries were drawn up it was felt that having just one ward encompassing both Ridgeway and Chiseldon & Lawn would be too large. 

Development and the preservation of the rural character is a major issue in Ridgeway. Wasdell’s plan for a major industrial, warehousing and research park on land just north of Wanborough was vehemently opposed by many, who packed out the village hall for meetings. 

That development by the pharmaceutical was turned down by the borough council’s planning committee – but residents will now be gathering themselves for an appeal. 

Similarly action by people living in Badbury on the border of the ward near Chiseldon has seen a previous approval of a development of 11 houses in the village reversed by councillors. 

It would be a surprise were Conservative sitting councillor and cabinet member for planning Gary Sumner not to hold the seat, based on past performance. 
He was elected for the first time in 2016 with 59 per cent of the vote. 

The only time his predecessor as the Conservative councillor for Ridgeway Andrew Bennett fell below gaining an overall majority in three elections was in 2012. The Ukip candidate in that election took nearly 10 per cent of the vote and that almost certainly contributed to a vote share of 42.6 per cent, still a seven-point lead over his closest challenger. 

Lib Dem Fiona McAnespie is fighting Ridgeway for the second time – she stood in 2016  coming in second but a long way behind Coun Sumner. 

Meet the candidates:

Sam James (Labour)

“I was born and raised in Swindon, attending local schools and I now work as a lawyer in the public sector.

“I am one of the many children from the town who learned to swim in the Oasis and I have very fond memories of Domebusters excitement! 

“I am absolutely devastated that we are at serious risk of losing this great asset. 

“I have met people as far away as Oxford who remember it as a key part of their childhood and it is one of the things that people most strongly associate with the town. If it is allowed to not reopen we will lose so much. 

“Living in a rural community has many advantages but also some disadvantages, in particular lack of provision for young people and isolation. 

“If elected I promise to work with the local community to improve the provision of services for young people living in Ridgeway.”
Fiona McAnespie (Liberal Democrat)

“Seven years ago, I swapped life as a performance improvement manager with Leeds City Council, for life as a hands-on grandma, moving from Yorkshire to Hinton Parva.

“While this is a fabulous place, village life can have challenges. 

“We need safer routes between our villages so that we can enjoy walking and cycling, and not have to drive everywhere; we need to control traffic flows to create safe places for our children to play; we need to ensure that development enhances the area and leaves as small an environmental footprint as possible. 

“Most importantly, as development happens, we need to preserve the unique identities of our individual villages. 

“If elected, I’d work with each village to establish their particular needs and be a passionate advocate for them on the borough council.”
Kevin Ritchie (Independent)

“Without civil liberties, democracy and human rights we have no civilised society which is why I am standing as an independent candidate to call for an immediate end to the current lockdown which has disproportionately restricted some of our most precious freedoms. 

“I am opposed to the introduction of health certification or vaccine passports in a domestic UK setting.  

“I am a strong supporter of local government and small and medium-sized independent businesses and I will campaign tirelessly for additional financial support for local businesses to assist them to reopen in Covid-secure environments without the need for vaccine passports. 

“Should I be elected I will also campaign for transparency in local government expenditure and call out corruption where found  – liberty and democratic rights walk hand-in-hand with individual responsibility and accountability. 

“I also believe littering, vandalism and pet theft should be stamped out as part of Swindon’s post-Covid recovery.”
Gary Sumner (Conservative)

“I was first elected five years ago and many of you will have seen me at public meetings or village events, whilst I am out walking my dog or at my regular ward surgeries.  

“I am also always responsible to correspondence from fellow residents. 

“I played a key role in representing the wishes of residents in seeing the inappropriate Inlands Farm industrial application refused, secured a £30m bypass for Wanborough and helped allocate funding for traffic calming measures to be introduced around our villages. 

“I have also been working hard to secure ultrafast broadband for our villages and dealing with residents’ issues, including potholes, fallen trees, grants 
for businesses and planning issues. 

“I have been immensely proud to represent the Ridgeway ward and I am seeking re-election on  May 6. I would be extremely grateful for your support.”