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The recent local elections have shifted the political landscape across the country, and significantly in the South East. Planning and housing have been particularly contentious topics in recent years and have played a direct influence on local political swings. DHA were monitoring events closely, and we have prepared the accompanying plans which show a sea of grey across the south, representing the significant areas now in No Overall Control.


Whilst the leadership of these Councils will become apparent in due course, we have prepared a summary of the key changes below:



Housing has been a contentious topic across Berkshire, particularly around Wokingham and West Berkshire, and the Green Belt authority of Windsor and Maidenhead. The local elections have brought significant changes across the County, where the Conservatives no longer hold any Councils. Labour have held Reading, and significantly gained Bracknell Forest from the Conservatives. In a reversal of the wider trend Labour have lost Slough to No Overall Control, however this is perhaps unsurprising given the effective bankruptcy of the Council in 2021.


The Liberal Democrat made some significant gains from the Conservatives, taking the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and West Berkshire.


Wokingham, which has been subject to significant recent planning uncertainties and a delayed Local Plan, remains in No Overall Control.



The political landscape has been a bit steadier in Hampshire, where the Conservatives have held onto Test Valley and the New Forest, the Liberal Democrats have held Eastleigh and Winchester and Labour have held Southampton. The biggest change is in the East Hampshire district, where the Conservatives have lost the Council leadership to No Overall Control. It will be interesting to see whether this has any impact on the much-delayed emerging Local Plan.



Following early excitement in Medway, where Labour will form an administration for the first time in over 20 years, the election results delivered further significant changes to the leadership of town halls across Kent.
In a reflection of the national picture, the Conservatives were the big losers, after their majorities in Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Hythe, Maidstone, Thanet and Tonbridge and Malling were wiped out. All but Thanet (where Labour achieved a majority) are now under no overall control, as are Swale and Tunbridge Wells, and negotiations will be required to determine the make-up and leadership of their respective administrations.
Labour gained Gravesham from no overall control and several Conservative Council leaders were deposed, as Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all made healthy gains.
The Tories fared slightly better elsewhere, holding Dartford and Sevenoaks, but it is clear that national displeasure with the Conservatives after 13 years in Government, allied with local resistance to Councils’ implementation of their planning and housing polices, were amongst the major reasons for the party’s poor performance.
Several incoming administrations have nevertheless indicated that progressing Local Plans will be amongst their top priorities, which whilst welcome is likely to be easier said than done!




Surrey has historically been safe ground for the Conservatives however in recent years they have suffered losses in places like Guildford and Waverley where housing and planning issues have caused controversy. This time around the Liberal Democrats have benefitted, taking control of Waverley and Surrey Heath. The Conservatives have also lost Runnymede, whilst there is a cluster of Green Belt authorities on the Surrey/ London fringe which are now in No Overall Control, including Elmbridge, Spelthorne and Tandridge. A Residents Association has kept control of Epsom & Ewell, whilst the Conservatives have held the safe ground of Reigate & Banstead, albeit losing 3 seats there.




The Liberal Democrats have taken control of Horsham, previously considered a safe council for the Conservatives who lost 21 seats, and Chichester.
The Conservatives suffered heavy losses across Sussex, losing 25 seats in Wealden and 11 seats in Mid Sussex, both of which are now in no overall control.
In Lewes, the Conservatives were left completely uprooted losing all 19 of their seats. These seats were shared among the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and Labour, leaving the Council in no overall control.

Focusing now on Labour’s successes, both Crawley and Worthing have remained under Labour’s hold, whilst they have also regained Brighton and Hove, claiming 18 seats.



Summary and Outlook

Planning and housing matters are back at the top of the political agenda, particularly in light of the current Government’s proposed changes and Keir Starmer’s new statement that Labour would look to loosen Green Belt restrictions. DHA will continue to monitor political changes at a local and national level, and the impact this might have on planning matters. 


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