MINEHEAD Town Council is heading into a new era free from party politics.

In a shock move, the entirety of the council going forward will be made up of Independent councillors as none of the major or minor political parties have opted to field candidates.

It is a wholesale change from the last election when the Conservatives had the majority, Labour had three candidates and there were a individual Independents and UKIP representatives.

However in the past 18 months a sea change has swept the town, with public attendance of town council meetings soaring, a series of shock by-election wins for Independents and the Liberal Democrats, plus a number of councillors switching allegiances so that the Conservatives lost their majority ahead of the election.

Indepedent candidate Terry Venner said he was ‘gobsmacked’ when he saw no political parties were standing for election.

He will contest the only Town Council election, up against three other Independents; Oliver Harvey, Anne Lawton and John Malin; vying for three seats in the Minehead North Ward.

Toni Bloomfield, Paul Bolton and Sandra Slade will represent the Alcombe Ward, in Minehead Central current mayor Norman Hercock and Andy Kingston-James will be returning, alongside Craig Palmer, Danielle Prosser, Steven Heard and Helena Rose .

In Minehead Periton and Woodcombe, Beresford Mandley and John Walder will be taking the seats, and there will be one vacancy in this ward.

There is also a vacancy for the Minehead Alcombe North Ward.

Current town councillors, who stood under political parties in the past, Roger Thomas, Lesley Culverhouse, Gary Miele, Andrew Parbrook, Ralph Dinnick, Gail Everett, Jean Parbrook and Maureen Smith have decided not to run again.

Terry Venner said: “I have been a town councillor since 1999 and this is the first time I can remember that there has been no political parties on the town council.

“About six months ago a group of us met up who were like-minded in believing there was no room for party politics at town council level,” Mr Venner said.

“The Minehead Community Group encouraged people to stand as Independents which was not easy but 14 people put their names forward.

"The existing councillors have given the newcomers guidance on what is involved in being a councillor.

“I think party politics can have a detrimental effect at this level - it is no good when things become tribal in a council chamber.”

New councillor Beresford Mandley, who has been a key figure in Minehead Community Group’s growing stature, said while he was pleased with the result, he was disappointed the people of Minehead had been 'deprived of democracy' with the political parties not standing.

"We were all ready to campaign," he said. "Still we will now be pulling together to try and get five of our Independent councillors elected to the Somerset West And Taunton Council."

Mr Mandley said the group had to be sensible and realistic about what they could achieve but work collectively to achieve positive outcomes for the town.