ONE of the characteristics of this year's borough elections in Bexley is the number of independents standing on grassroots issues against the established political parties.

An example is the Orange Squash Party, which is fielding just one candidate in the Lesness Abbey ward.

Orange Squash started at the beginning of this year as a protest group campaigning against Orange, the mobile phone company.

For the past 10 years the company has refused all efforts to move its mast out of Bedonwell Primary School, Bedonwell Road, Belvedere.

When the school refused to renew the company's lease on the mast site, Orange was forced to look elsewhere for a place to site its 3G replacement.

The company then chose a a location just 20m from the school's boundary fence.

Its decision angered nearby residents so much they set up the protest group.

Now one of its leaders, Gary Cripps, is standing as a candidate in the elections on May 4.

As well as standing as a protest against Orange, and its plans for a new mast in Bedonwell Road, the fledgling party has also taken up two other issues which it says will affect people in the Lesness Abbey ward.

So Mr Cripps, 31, who is married with two children, will also be campaigning against the Thames Gateway Bridge and the proposed Belvedere incinerator.

He says the group decided to field a candidate because there was a general feeling among people their fears are not being listened to.

Mr Cripps said "There is a belief that it will happen whether we want it or not.

"Rather than pursue the more sedate campaigning methods, we have decided to try and take an active role in how our community is run."

Orange Squash is believed to have a hard core of about 300 supporters.

Mr Cripps is hoping a sustained campaign in the ward will net the party the other 1,000 votes it needs to take the council seat.