A LIBERAL Democrat councillor who was elected after vowing to fight plans for a new town near Fareham has dramatically switched sides by joining the Conservative party.
Cllr Nick Gregory, elected for Fareham West, won a by-election in December after campaigning against Conservative-led Fareham council’s plans to build 7,000 new homes in the north of the borough.
But he announced yesterday that he was quitting the Lib Dems and joining the Tories.
Cllr Gregory’s move has angered fellow Lib Dems, who campaigned alongside him to protest at the homes plans for the part of the borough known as the Strategic Development Area.
He said he had now decided to switch parties and support the SDA as the best way to protect the area – because if it were to fall through it may leave the door open for worse developments by other applicants.
He said he also disagreed with the Liberal Democrats’ support of the Alternative Vote system, which is to be the subject of a national referendum next month.
Cllr Gregory, said: ‘I believe that the people I represent in Fareham West are best served by me being a member of the Conservative group.
‘I believe that the new local plan being pursued by the council is sound and that the development of a new community to the north of Fareham is in the best interests of my residents as it gives the best possible chance of protecting the countryside around Titchfield Abbey and Peak Lane from development.
‘I don’t think the council had made their argument very clear and hopefully I can help to make it clear in the future.’
Lib Dem councillor Paul Whittle, who campaigned against the SDA alongside Cllr Gregory, said: ‘I’m very disappointed by Nick’s decision and actions.
‘He enjoyed a huge amount of support from us as friends and colleagues to get himself elected in the by-election. That was largely because of the SDA.
‘I am struggling to come to terms with how he can justify such a huge U-turn in such a short space of time. He is going to have an interesting time explaining himself to his ward residents.’
Fareham Borough council now has 23 Tories and eight Lib Dem councillors.