OXFORDSHIRE'S first ever cabinet member for climate emergency has been appointed in the south of the county.

Green councillors Sue Roberts has said she will oppose ‘unfettered development’ and that ecology must be prioritised ‘first and foremost’.

The environmental campaigner's post was announced this week as part of the new Liberal Democrat and Green Party cabinet at South Oxfordshire District Council.

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One of the five Green councillors elected onto the authority this month, Dr Roberts will investigate how SODC can react to the 'climate emergency' it declared in April.

She said: “We need to be looking at mapping where nature is and working to enhance these areas if we can.”

Oxford Mail:

File photo of Dr Roberts, far right, calling for action to tackle air pollution in Wallingford.

The announcement of Dr Roberts' role comes after other Oxfordshire councillors raised concerns that the new leadership at SODC could scupper the £215m Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal with government if they try to challenge controversial housing targets for the district.

The council's Lib Dems and Greens have already said they are looking at whether the district’s Local Plan for housing could be revised, and that could anger the Government, which planned the deal with councils and signed it in March 2018 on the basis they all completed their Local Plans.

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It said it wanted all the plans, which outline where key development will take place, signed off by April.

Councils delivered on that target, but other leaders now fear the deal, which plugs £215m into development and affordable housing across the county, could be lost if SODC revises its plan.

South Oxfordshire's major housing plans have been controversial for years, as they all involve building thousands of new homes on the Oxford Green Belt or Chalgrove Airfield.

Oxford Mail:

Chalgrove Airfield.

Dr Roberts said her new role would ‘ensure’ all SODC’s departments 'make the climate emergency a key part of their work and decisions’.

SODC’s councillors voted to call a climate emergency ahead of this month’s local elections, following the nationwide Extinction Rebellion protests and ongoing 'school strikes'.

And despite a large turnover of councillors at the local election this month, Dr Roberts said she was optimistic about the authority’s future.

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She said: “It’s a wonderful team. I was in a planning training session and there were people from different parties, including Conservatives, and I think we will work fabulously together.

“It’s always been the case with the Greens that we work cooperatively: we like to work with everybody because we are a community, we want to work with people.”

Dr Roberts will give details about what could be done to reduce the effects of climate change to SODC’s new Lib Dem leader Sue Cooper.

Oxford Mail:

Protesters of all ages at the third 'school strike for climate' in Oxford's Bonn Square in April.

Mrs Cooper will also be the council’s cabinet member for legal and democratic services and Didcot Garden Town.

Her official deputy will be Lib Dem councillor David Turner, who will also be the council’s cabinet member for finance.

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The Greens have three of the nine cabinet posts, including Dr Roberts. Andrea Powell will be responsible for corporate services and Robin Bennett will be in charge of economic development and regeneration.

Elsewhere, at Vale of White Horse District Council, new Lib Dem leader Emily Smith named her cabinet. Unsurprisingly in the light of her party sweeping control of the authority, her cabinet is entirely made up of Lib Dems.