COUNCILLOR Bridget Fishleigh took her seat on Wednesday after becoming only the second Independent to have been elected in the 25 years since Brighton and Hove merged.

Councillor Fishleigh stormed through to win the largest share of the vote in the Rottingdean Coastal ward at the start of the month.

She is now the only Independent on Brighton and Hove City Council.

The only councillor previously elected as an Independent was Jayne Bennett, who first won her old Hove Park seat in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007 before rejoining the Conservatives.

Other councillors have sat as Independents after leaving their respective political parties, with the most recent being former Labour leader Warren Morgan, who joined The Independent Group, later renamed Change UK.

Topping the poll was a complete surprise for Councillor Fishleigh who was a leading fundraiser for the Saltdean Lido.

She said: “It was fantastic because it proved that if you engage with people and offer them a genuine alternative they will make the effort to vote and support you.

“I didn’t have a detailed manifesto, more several big issues that I pledged to tackle.”

Now she is in place Bridget wants to take the lead from the people who voted for her from Sussex Square to West Saltdean.

She said: “People clearly want to have a representative who lives in their community and experiences the same problems they do.

“They don’t want someone who brings politics and the blame-game into every conversation.”

Planning was one of the key issues listed on her website during the election campaign and she will spend at least the next 12 months as a member of the council’s Planning Committee.

She said: “There are lots of housing projects being suggested to the east of the city that arouse strong opinions and need to be seriously scrutinised with an objective eye.”

Her particular concerns are large luxury developments on greenfield sites which do not help local families and add to congestion on the A259.

She said: “The A259 is getting worse with every month and, with various new developments planned along the coastal strip from the Marina to Newhaven, it will only get worse. The general feeling is that the council is ignoring the problem and don’t know what to do. However, there is already a strong campaign group with a host of ideas.”