THE Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Eastleigh have quit their party over controversial plans to build thousands of homes near ancient woodland.

Cllr Maureen Sollitt and her deputy Chris Thomas have both quit the ruling Liberal Democrats group at Eastleigh Borough Council over concerns around the emerging local plan.

This comes after councillors Steve Sollitt, Sarah Bain and Mark Balaam quit the party for the same reasons in the past few months.

Eastleigh councillors are to discuss the controversial plans to build thousands of homes and a link road near ancient woodland during a full council meeting set to take place at the Ageas Bowl on December 11.

Council leader Keith House said these resignations were expected.

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 Sollitt and Cllr Thomas said to be concerned about the impact the proposals will have on the village of Allbrook, an area they both represent.

They will now join the Independent Liberal Democratic Group and their move means that Eastleigh’s Liberal Democrats Group no longer have any borough councillors in Eastleigh North ward.

Cllr Sollitt, who was first elected in 1996 and is also Chair of Allbrook and North Boyatt Parish Council, has served as Mayor of Eastleigh twice.

She said: "As Chair of this parish council and a resident of Eastleigh for many years, I share the concerns of local residents over the impact of the plans and the link road which would cut the village of Allbrook in half.”

Her deputy Cllr Thomas added: "The height of the railway bridge at Allbrook is a serious obstacle in this plan. It is shocking that the traffic survey for the proposed link road will not be complete in time for Monday’s Full Council vote."

But council leader Keith House said: "We had expected these resignations for some time and are only surprised at how long they have taken. Maureen Sollitt was always going to defend her son’s position and was already standing down in May. Chris Thomas had not been reselected to stand in next year’s elections. This draws to an end the enlargement of the Independent Group, which often seems to happen in the run-up to elections when the Lib Dem team choose strong and enthusiastic candidates to stand up for local people."