THE Conservative group in Thurrock has dramatically lost its majority again after a fed up councillor defected.

Stuart St Clair-Haslam, ward councillor for Little Thurrock, has formed an alliance with Corringham and Fobbing councillor Anne Cheale, who was chucked out of the group in March after tabling a motion of no confidence in Tory leader of the council Garry Hague.

In an email to his fellow councillors, Mr St Clair-Haslam said:

" It is with great sadness and regret that I have to inform you that I have decided to resign the Conservative Group Whip.

"It is my intention to form an alliance and Group with my Independent Conservative colleague, Cllr Ann Cheale. Likewise it is my intention to sit as an Independent Conservative Councillor.

"I have arrived at this decision as a consequence of what I perceive to be a total lack of backing and support over recent months by Cllr Garry Hague in my previous role as the Chair of Planning Committee."

Mrs Cheale, who remains a member of the Conservative party, confirmed that Mr St Clair-Haslam has joined her in what she calls the “Concerned Conservatives” group and that it was because of the recent controversy surrounding the planning committee, which Cllr St. Clair-Haslam chairs.

Asked if she thought more Tories may joining them in the near future, Mrs Cheale said: “There’s a lot of discontent so there could well be.”

Mr St. Clair-Haslam is believed to have quit the group citing a lack of support from council leader Garry Hague over a row between officers and planning committee members about whether planning permission for two developments on green belt land should be granted or not.

Back in January the committee ignored officers’ advice when it granted permission for a change of use at Mardyke Farm, in Ship Lane, Aveley, and a two storey front and back extension, loft conversion and conservatory, at Manor House in Brentwood Road, Bulphan.

The officers called in a barrister and the planning committee was forced to rescind planning permission for both applications.

Both applications are currently being reconsidered but differences of opinion between officers and commttee members, coupled with the applicants’ threats to sue the council, mean they have been repeatedly deferred.

The Tories were celebrating clawing back a majority from the Labour party at the local elections on Friday, but cllr St. Clair-Haslam’s decision to leave the group brings them back to even again with 22 councillors each.

The rest of the seats are held by two independents, one BNP, and councillor Cheale who at the moment is described as “non-aligned”

Neither Councillor St. Clair-Haslam or Cllr Hague are available for comment at present.