The Conservatives have retained an important seat on the Isle of Wight Council following a by-election in the run-up to Christmas — but by a slim margin.

Last night (Thursday), Ed Blake was elected to represent the residents of Ventnor and St Lawrence in County Hall — securing 40 per cent of the vote.

Cllr Blake is taking the place of former Conservative councillor Gary Peace, who resigned for personal reasons at the end of October.

The local businessman, Cllr Blake, who operates Ventnor Haven Fishery and the management of the harbour along with his family, won with 274 votes.

Isle of Wight County Press: The moment Ed Blake was declared the winnerThe moment Ed Blake was declared the winner (Image: Isle of Wight County Press)

Coming in a close second — and hoping it would be third time lucky after two previously unsuccessful attempts to take the seat — was the town's current mayor, Steve Cooper, for the Labour Party.

Mr Cooper received 26 fewer votes, garnering support from 248 residents — 37 per cent of the overall votes.

In third place, was the Liberal Democrat's candidate, Ray Harrington-Vail, a co-founder of The Footprint Trust, who received 145 votes.

The LibDems had been on a winning streak, winning the two previous Isle of Wight Council by-elections.

Fewer than a quarter of those eligible turned out to vote yesterday — 22.4 per cent — with only 669 ballot papers received out of a possible 2,987.

The turn-out was down by 17.5 per cent on the previous election's results for Ventnor and St Lawrence, with 562 fewer votes cast - possibly due to the election being so close to  Christmas. 

The timing of the by-election is decided by law as it must be held within 35 working days of it being triggered.

That meant, with Mr Peace's resignation at the end of October, it could have either been held yesterday or next week — between Christmas and New Year.

Cllr Blake, a member of Ventnor Rugby Football Club, will join his Conservative colleagues at County Hall in January, keeping the number of seats held by the group at 16.

It means the Tories are still the largest group on the authority but do not control it.

The power remains in the hands of the Alliance Administration, which has 13 councillors.

Island MP Bob Seely, Conservative, said after the election: “Thank you to Ventnor and St Lawrence residents for choosing Ed Blake as their new Conservative councillor. 

"Ed, a local fisherman, will be a strong voice for the town and the people of St Lawrence.

“We had a very positive reaction on the doorsteps during the campaign. Ed was the stand-out candidate and I know he'll do a great job representing his residents. 

"I look forward to working with him in holding the Alliance council to account.”