THE leader of South Oxfordshire District Council will resign after he said he would not stand to regain the leadership of its Conservative Party group.

John Cotton resigned as leader of the Conservative group on March 14 after being threatened with a motion of no confidence by fellow councillors.

It had been thought he would stand again but the rejection of the council’s Local Plan on Tuesday night was another huge blow to his authority.

On Twitter he wrote: “With some sadness, I have decided not to submit my name for the upcoming Conservative Group elections.

“That means, soon, I shall cease to be leader of South Oxfordshire District Council.

“It has been a huge honour to lead my district council and I am enormously proud of the way our staff have handled the challenges thrown at them: the office fire; the Garden Town in Didcot; a Local Plan with people at its heart – all while delivering top quality services with shrinking budgets and making South Oxfordshire one of the best places to be in the country.

“My heartfelt thanks go to each one of them.”

Mr Cotton said he will remain the ‘proud’ councillor for Berinsfield, Dorchester and Drayton St Leonard.

He has served as council leader since October 2014, when he was elected following the death of previous leader, Ann Ducker.

On Tuesday, 14 of Mr Cotton’s Conservative colleagues declined to support the Local Plan, and his former deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, Jane Murphy, said the council was trying to ‘rush [it] through’.

Mr Cotton’s cabinet member for planning, Felix Bloomfield, abstained on the vote.

It is understood some councillors have been unhappy over how the plan – which currently includes proposals to build on the controversial Chalgrove Airfield and Culham sites – has been dealt with.

The council’s decision to support the formation of a unitary authority across Oxfordshire has also caused ire amongst some councillors.

The county council and Vale of White Horse District Council, which shares staff with SODC, also agreed to back that in March 2017.

It is now thought the next leader will be from one of two camps – either in favour of abolishing the district council in favour of the unitary authority or supportive of retaining the existing district council.

It is understood the pro-unitary group is led by Ms Murphy, who Mr Cotton sacked earlier this month, and the other by Will Hall, who backed the Local Plan on Tuesday. The Tories’ election will take place on April 12, ahead of the winner being formally made leader at a council meeting on April 19.