If there's one part of Swindon which gives the lie to the town's unfair reputation for soul-less, outdated modernity it's Old Town.

The original settlement which grew into the town we know in the mid-19th Century, and has been growing ever since, is a vibrant cluster of tight, narrow streets - although the electoral ward actually shares a fair bit of what Swindonians know as Old Town with Eastcott ward to the north.

While Old Town has the quirky, independent shopping and is the undisputed nightlife centre of Swindon, it's not all cakes and ale.

Parking and traffic is a perennial problem, the proliferation of student-style homes of multiple occupation is a growing issue and incidents of anti-social behaviour and crime, particularly drug use and dealing in Town Gardens are of concern.

Politically the ward could be key to who holds power in the council chamber after May 3, especially as there will be a new councillor.

The sitting member, Claire Ellis, a Conservative, is stepping down after nine years a councillor.

She won the seat very handsomely in 2015 - the highwater mark for the Conservatives in elections recently. Her 2952 votes was 48 per cent of the total 6083 cast, but fully 1300 more than the Labour candidate in second place, with UKIP making a strong showing in third.

In the two elections in Old Town since, Labour have held their seats, though in tighter contests against the Conservatives, although Coun Nadine watts won more than half the votes last year.

With the ward being so significant both culturally to Swindon and politically in Euclid Street it's perhaps no surprise that the candidates the parties are putting up have experience of campaigning in the ward.

The Conservative candidate Nick Burns Howell was Coun Watts' nearest challenger in 2018, and Peter Oliver for the Lib Dems and Bill Hughes for the Green party also contested last year's election here. They both received just over three per cent of the vote, with Mr Hughes just pipping Mr Oliver to third place.

Mr Hopkins fought in Lydiard and Freshbrook last year. While UKIP's Jason Costello is a new candidate in Old Town, the name is familiar. Last year Ed Costello stood for the party.

The Candidates

Nick Burns-Howell - Conservative

I’m proud to call Old Town my home – I live and work in the ward. As a local parish councillor, I’ve worked to deliver for our area, from being involved in the refurbishment of the Old Town Library, to fighting for improvements to our local amenities and play parks and working with the Police and other agencies to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

We need a strong local voice to champion our area and actually deliver action on the issues we face as a community. We need cohesive plans and action to tackle the challenges we face, from parking, potholes, planning, crime and improvements to local amenities. I will work tirelessly to ensure our community continues to thrive and be a great place to live.

Jason Costello - UKIP

UKIP is a moderate party in the centre ground of British politics. We are disappointed that Brexit did not take place as promised at the end of March 2019. UKIP can now fairly claim to be the only party speaking up for the 17 million people who voted leave in the EU referendum three years ago way back in 2016. People should vote UKIP as we are the only party that wants to give Britain a genuine Brexit.

Neil Hopkins - Labour

I am delighted to have been selected as the Labour candidate for the Old Town and East Wichel ward. If elected, I look forward to working with Old Town's two hardworking Labour Councillors.

I am an Old Town resident and am currently a Councillor for Old Town and East Wichel on South Swindon Parish Council, where I'm chair of the leisure and amenities committee. In that role I have been significantly involved in the decisions to take over Town Gardens and Queens Park from the borough council, as well as refurbishing the Old Town library.

Since moving to Old Town, I've become involved in community activities - as a member of the committee of the Old Town Residents Association (formerly Pipers Area Residents Association) and recently joined the committee of the Old Town Festival.

Bill Hughes - Green Party

I have been a Green campaigner in Swindon for over 30 years.

I’ve stood for election at local, national and European level campaigning for cleaner air, water, natural surroundings and quality of life.

I have had various employment experience, including work for the Forestry Commission, gardening, teaching, civil service and many years as a careers adviser, now retired.

I have always taken a keen interest in environmental, social, economic and political affairs and I’m presently concerned with the climate change emergency and countering the rise of the extreme right.

Peter Oliver - Liberal Democrats

I am standing for election with the aim of achieving three main goals.

I will champion free parking for the first two hours to support local retailers and encourage more people to shop local.

Local taxation has increased by almost 25% in just four years. This can’t continue, I will champion embracing to the full shared services with neighbouring authorities. Using monies saved to keep local taxation as low as possible and maintain key services.

Holding an elected position will enable me to take forward a key goal of establishing a system that informs consumers if the meat they are eating has come from animals that have been pre-stunned before slaughter or not. For Swindon to lead the way in tacking climate change, ensure buildings built today are carbon neutral.