A FORMER council leader and a member of his cabinet have been expelled by a Conservative Party group after a planning row.

John Cotton, who was South Oxfordshire District Council’s leader until last April, and Tony Harbour have been kicked out by its Conservative group.

Earlier this month, Mr Cotton, Mr Harbour and four other district councillors were suspended pending an investigation after they voted against the council's Local Plan in December.

That would see about 28,500 homes built in the district, with six of seven strategic sites for housing located on the Green Belt.

Read again: Conservatives suspend six South Oxfordshire councillors – including former leader John Cotton​

Mr Harbour, who was member for waste in Mr Cotton's cabinet, dismissed his expulsion as a ‘farce’, labelling council leader Jane Murphy’s behaviour ‘bizarre’.

It is understood Mr Cotton plans to appeal his expulsion, while Mr Harbour is as yet undecided.

Mr Harbour previously said he believed the Local Plan vote, taken on December 20, to be a free vote.

He said: "This could have been dealt with in a much better way, a one-to-one way. It seems to have been eradicating the people who are prepared to speak.

"That is not how it should be. Most of the people are frightened to speak out."

Of the other four councillors – who make up a group dubbed the ‘Green Belt Six’ by Mr Cotton – their suspensions have been extended for period varying between a month and three months.

They are Imran Lokhon, Sue Lawson, Elaine Hornsby and Elizabeth Gillespie.

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David Nimmo Smith, the chairman of the SODC Conservative group, confirmed two members had been expelled and four others had received extensions to temporary suspensions.

He said: "As all six councillors are able to appeal the SODC Conservative group decision, it would not be appropriate for me to go into any further detail at this stage – and be accused of prejudicing any appeals which may be made – until the process has been completed."

On SODC's website, the councillors have been temporarily included in what is labelled the 'Non-Group'.