THE leader of the Libs Dems has waded into the row over controversial plans to build 5,200 new homes on land near ancient woodland.

The scheme, for land between Fair Oak and Bishopstoke, sparked a wave of protest among residents and even led to several Lib Dem councillors quitting the party.

But on a visit to Eastleigh yesterday, Mr Cable backed the council's stance, arguing that the homes were desperately needed.

Mr Cable, who is also MP for Twickenham, said: “The basic strategy the council has adopted seems to be right, which is to build ambitious housing developments combined with a good environmental policy.

"My understanding is that they are trying to create garden villages to protect the green land between Eastleigh and Southampton.

"But the basic point is that this is an area that is desperate for new houses and there must be a substantial increase in supply.”

As previously reported, borough councillors’ plans to build 5,200 new homes on land near ancient woodland sparked a heated debate between residents.

When asked his thoughts about the proposed plans and their impact on the environment, Mr Cable said: “All new development is controversial.

"Everywhere I go there is opposition to new developments but there has to be a big expansion of houses because people cannot afford to buy them and it has to be done in a green, sensitive manner.

"This is what I judge the council here are doing.”

Mr Cable also praised the work his party colleagues have done in the Eastleigh borough in recent years.

Talking about residents’ concerns regarding the need for more infrastructure, he said: “My understanding is that the council is well aware of the necessity of having infrastructure with the new houses and that’s what they are planning to do.”

He added: “It’s been a Lib Dem council for over 30 years here and they have a very strong record of delivering good services.

"I expect them to do well in May."

Despite the borough council being threatened with government action after failing to come up with a framework for its housing plan, Mr Cable called it "an exceptionally well run council”.

The whole council will be up for election in May.

Mr Cable also said that Brexit will have an impact on the economy in Eastleigh.

“We are going to finish with a hard Brexit, very damaging to the manufactory industry.

"We should have a referendum, on the deal, once we know what it is.”

Cllr Anne Winstanley, deputy council leader, welcomed the visit and said it showed Eastleigh councillors are supported by senior party colleagues.