THE new Liberal Democrat leaders of two Oxfordshire councils have been urged to scrap controversial housing plans for the county.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Oxfordshire branch has leapt on the Lib Dems' dramatic victories at last week's local elections and called on them to 'take the plans off the table for a rethink'.

The party thrashed the Conservatives to take control Vale of White Horse District Council on Thursday, and in South Oxfordshire looks set to lead a coalition with independents and Greens.

Read also:

Leaderless Lib Dems now planning 'rainbow coalition' with Greens

Both councils were previously Tory-led; now, just 24 of 74 councillors on South and Vale were members before Thursday.

The CPRE has appealed to the new councillors to reassess the controversial Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal and proposed growth across the county.

All of Oxfordshire's councils agreed to pass the £215m Growth Deal in early 2018.

Oxford Mail:

The South and Vale election count at White Horse Tennis and Leisure Centre, Abingdon.

Part of the deal was that the district councils had to submit finished Local Plans for housing based on Government-backed housing targets.

The plans could involve development on the Green Belt around Oxford, most notably in South Oxfordshire.

Six of that council’s seven strategic sites for thousands of new homes would be built on the Green Belt if it is approved by a planning inspector.

But new councillors could withdraw the plan – despite the Government explicitly saying under the terms of the Growth Deal that it had to be submitted for assessment this year.

Ed Vaizey: Election result exposes Westminster's failure

The county’s councils have also agreed to look at future development in Oxfordshire ahead of 2050 – with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of extra houses being built.

Environmental campaigners and residents have attacked the housing plans for years – now the new Lib Dem leaders are being challenged to defy the government-backed targets.

Helen Marshall, CPRE Oxfordshire’s director, said: “It’s time to set a more appropriate level of development, in line with natural growth and migration, not arbitrary targets.

“Then we can concentrate on looking after our wonderful landscape and supporting our local communities, which are actually critical to our economic success.”

Oxford Mail:

There are now 31 Lib Dems, six Conservatives and one Green councillor on Vale of White Horse District Council. Before the elections, there had been 29 Conservatives and nine Lib Dems.

In South Oxfordshire, there are now 12 Lib Dems, 10 Conservatives and five Green councillors.

The rest of the council is made up of three Labour councillors, three from the Henley Residents Group and three independents.

At the start of 2018, the Conservatives held 33 of the council’s 36 seats, with the Lib Dems, Labour and the Henley Residents Group holding one each.

Wantage's Tory MP Ed Vaizey said the ‘great deal of frustration’ over Brexit had been one reason for the Conservatives’ collapse in Vale and South Oxfordshire.

Mr Vaizey said: “While local issues are very important, there is no doubt that voters use them to send a message to government.

Read again:

EU staff leaving Oxford hospitals in droves

“This is a strongly Remain constituency, and there is a great deal of frustration that politicians in Westminster are still unable to find a way forward on Brexit.

“I will be taking the message of frustration felt on the doorstep of the campaign and at the ballot box back to Westminster. It is wrong that local politicians who have worked tirelessly for their local communities should bear the brunt of a Westminster failure.”

The Lib Dems control Vale for the first time since 2011.

The last time South Oxfordshire District Council was not run by Conservatives was in 2003. A Labour and Lib Dem coalition ran it from 1995 until then.

Elsewhere in the county, the Conservatives’ performance was mixed across Cherwell and West Oxfordshire, where a third of district council seats were up for election.

Read again:

New Oxford hotel set to open next month

In Cherwell, the Conservatives held nine seats and lost four, while Labour made no gains.

Independents and Lib Dems won two seats each with the Greens winning one. Lib Dems Katherine Tyson and Conrad Copeland won in Kidlington West, while the Greens’ Ian Middleton defeated Conservative councillor Neil Prestidge in Kidlington East by 73 votes.

The Lib Dems and Greens had agreed to a pact in Cherwell and South Oxfordshire ahead of the election.

The Conservatives made further losses in West Oxfordshire after losing seats last year.

The party lost four councillors last week and another five in 2018 but still has 28 of 49 councillors on the authority.

Labour won four seats, including three in Witney. The Lib Dems won another two, so they remain the authority’s official opposition, with 10 seats.