The adoption of the South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) Local Plan was reported here on 13th December. However, it has led to a split in the ruling Liberal-Democrat-Green coalition which no longer has an overall majority on the council.
The vote to approve the contentious Plan divided the Green Party with some members supporting it while others have set up a new group. The Lib-Dem and Green coalition which won control in the 2019 local elections has gone.
Cllr Sue Roberts has become an Independent Green. Although still a member of the Green Party, she is not a member of the party group on the council. Cllr Sarah Gray, a former Lib-Dem, has resigned from the party and with Sue Roberts, has joined forces with former Conservative councillor Elizabeth Gillespie – now an Independent – in a new group called the South Oxfordshire Residents Team. The Lib-Dem leader, Cllr Sue Cooper, acknowledged that her party’s coalition with the Greens no longer held an overall majority. She said they would have to work with other parties on an issue-by-issue basis.
There is widespread unhappiness with the Local Plan which allows for the building of 30,000 new homes over the next fifteen years including 3,500 near Culham. Opponents claim that the number of new homes is excessive.
One of the councillors who abstained in the vote was Long Wittenham’s Green councillor Sam Casey-Rerhaye who remains in the party. She said that although the new plan was an improvement it was not one that the majority of the democratically elected councillors wanted. The plan would completely urbanise the Culham area.
Cllr Casey-Rerhaye said: “A vote that is made under duress is not a free vote. It is not a fair exercise of the mandate I have been given. I abstained because my vote counted for nothing.”
View the political groupings of the thirty-six district councillors on the SODC website.