SOUTH Oxfordshire District Council now looks set to be jointly run by the Liberal Democrats and Greens, after two independent councillors agreed to join the parties.

Benson and Crowmarsh’s Sue Cooper expects to be formally named leader at the first meeting on Thursday, despite last week suggesting another councillor was in line for the role.

And independents Peter Dragonetti and Leigh Rawlins have said they intend to join the Greens and Lib Dems respectively, meaning that the two parties would have a slim 19-17 majority.

It follows a crushing defeat for the Conservatives at local elections two weeks ago, which led to talk of a ‘rainbow coalition’ involving two other parties.

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Following a meeting this weekend, Mrs Cooper said: “The intention is to have a partnership between us and the Greens.

“We are also hoping to co-operate with [the three] Henley Residents Group councillors and [the three] Labour councillors. Basically they will support us on motions they agree with - they will not be deliberately obstructive.”

She called the agreement ‘a positive start’ and said acting on a recent ‘climate emergency’ declaration would be a priority.

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Kellie Hinton, from Henley Residents Group, confirmed that her party would be co-operating with the new leadership.

The Oxford Mail was unable to contact any Labour representatives, or Lib Dem councillor David Turner, who was last week being touted as a ‘likely’ leader, both by himself and Mrs Cooper.

Explaining his decision to join the five Green Party members, Mr Dragonetti said: “I had previously stood as a Green candidate - I am a member. I thought I would have a better chance than getting elected as a Green candidate.

“(But) instead of being a person able to put an independent voice across [in a Conservative administration], I have a chance to be part of a group that has some influence.”

He added that he felt he had a strong personal mandate based on being popular locally.

His counterpart Mr Rawlins added: “I was a genuine independent, I have never been a member of a political party. I stood at my own expense, consulted with people locally and wrote my own material.

“But now that the election is done, to deliver on what I promised I need to work with other people to achieve that.”

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After winning 27 of 36 seats last time around, the Tories fell to just 10 seats, leaving the council with 12 Liberal Democrats (10 more than at the last election), 10 Conservatives (-17), five Greens (+5) three Labour (+2), three Henley Residents Group (+2) and three Independents (-2) - prior to them switching parties.

Meanwhile, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has urged the council – and Vale of White Horse – to scrap controversial housing plans.

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’.

Both councils were previously Tory-led before a dramatic turnaround at the election.

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

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

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.

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.

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 local communities, which are actually critical to economic success.”