Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, West Glamorgan; caused by the death of long-serving Labour councillor Collin Crowley. Crowley had been a councillor for more than forty years, starting in 1972 on the old Port Talbot borough council; he spent most of his working life with British Steel after serving in the Merchant Navy.
|Housing estates of Aberavon|
© Copyright Jonathan Billinger and licensed for
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First up, we have the south-west facing Aberavon Beach, once a traditional seaside resort for the population of the Valleys. Draw a straight line from the beach in the right direction and the first land you hit is in Brazil; with the entire Atlantic ocean to generate waves Aberavon Beach is very popular with Wales' surfers. For swimmers of a gentler disposition there was the Afan Lido, a leisure centre on the seafront which also hosted a gym and a concert hall until it was destroyed by fire at the end of 2009; Neath Port Talbot council recently gave planning permission for a replacement. One part of the complex which survived the fire is the home ground of the Welsh premier league football side Afan Lido FC. Other attempts to prettify the promenade include the "Kite Trail" sculpture by Andrew Rowe, which is claimed to be the largest sculpture in Wales.
Interesting though all these things are, we should attempt to get back on topic and consider the ward itself, the housing estate behind the seafront, which was built in the 1950s to house workers at Port Talbot steelworks and their families. The first seriously bizarre thing about the ward is its boundary: the ward has a detached part. This detached part is a roughly circular area less than twenty metres across on land within Port Talbot Docks. This is private land but essentially empty, with nothing today in the detached part of the ward but grass. Old maps fail to shed any light on why this detached part exists. With an area of 0.094 hectares (less than a quarter of an acre) this is the smallest electoral unit in the United Kingdom, or it would be if it was populated.
While the populated part of Sandfields East ward does have the strong Labour vote you might expect from a depressed estate in a place like Port Talbot, this isn't enough for Labour to sweep the board at election time due to the presence of popular and long-serving Independent councillor Lella James, who has topped the poll at every contest in this ward since the turn of the century. Normally finishing at the other end of the ward's contests (although he did beat an independent candidate in the 2012 election) is the other seriously bizarre thing about this ward, eccentric charity fundraiser and baked bean museum curator Captain Beany ("from the Planet Beanus"), who has been appearing on the area's ballot papers for the last two decades with his one-man "New Millennium Bean Party".
Mike Davies, defending for Labour, is probably favourite to win to the by-election. Captain Beany, having wound up the New Millennium Bean Party, will fight his 22nd election campaign as candidate of the Port Talbot Residents Association, fresh from pushing a vacuum cleaner around the Cardiff Half-Marathon course earlier this month in a time of just over four hours; this time he appears on the ballot paper under his real name, Barry Kirk. Also on the ballot paper are representatives of three parties who have not previously contested the ward: Richard Minshull for the Conservatives, Keith Suter for UKIP (whose record against Beany in this area is played 1, lost 1) and Daniel Thomas for Plaid.
Believe It or Not.
Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Aberavon
Assembly electoral region: South Wales West
ONS Travel to Work Area: Swansea Bay
Mike Davies (Lab)
Barry Kirk (Port Talbot Res Assoc)
Richard Minshull (C)
Keith Suter (UKIP)
Daniel Thomas (PC)
May 2012 result Ind 1116/622 Lab 1041/879/750 Neath Port Talbot Ind 669
May 2008 result Ind 1251 Lab 921/912/609 Neath Port Talbot Res Assoc 520/472 New Millennium Bean Party 369
June 2004 result Ind 1478 Lab 1010/900/819 New Millennium Bean Party 522