A COUNCILLOR has quit his party over concerns that plans to build thousands of homes near ancient woodland would cause "serious environmental risks".

Cllr Mark Balaam has resigned from the ruling Liberal Democrats group on Eastleigh Borough Council following his concerns about the impact the proposed development would have on ancient woodland and wildlife.

This comes after Cllr Steve Sollitt and Cllr Sarah Bain resigned from the party in August following their concerns about the deliverability and viability of the scheme.

Council leader Keith House said the council has yet to reach a decision on the local plan.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, during a full council meeting on July 20, councillors from Eastleigh Borough Council indicated the area to the north and east of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak as the preferred location for a new development which could see 5,200 new homes, shops, schools, open spaces and a new access road north of Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak.

Cllr Balaam, who is now sitting as independent, said to have serious concerns about the impact of the plans on the environment.

He represents the Eastleigh Central ward but said councillors have to represent every resident of the borough.

"I am not prepared to put political loyalty over a conviction in protecting our wildlife and natural heritage", he said.

"I have always been an environmentalist and believe firmly in protecting our natural environment as much as possible."

"I have serious concerns with the proposed plans for option B because I believe it poses a serious risk to the wildlife and ancient woodland north of Bishopstoke."

As previously reported, the plans were also objected by the action group Action against Destructive Development Eastleigh (ADD).

Cllr House, council leader and leader of the local Liberal Democrats party, said: "Sadly some councillors buckle under the pressure of having to make difficult choices and Mark and two others buckled to support the ADD political pressure group line of predetermining the Council’s Local Plan.The Council has yet to reach a decision on the Local Plan."

Mark Baylis, 64, member of ADD, said: "We are not putting pressure on councillors - we simply made our arguments.

"The leadership of the Eastleigh Borough Council are totally isolated on the issue of the local plan. We don't put pressure on people."