THE Epping Forest District has a new official opposition after a local residents' association achieved remarkable election success.

Loughton Residents Association won every ward they stood in at the latest round of district council elections gaining five new seats.

The BNP suffered the biggest losses on the night with three of their four council seats going to the LRA.

Pat Richardson is now their sole representative on the district council.

She said: “I think it's down to poor schooling. All I can say is there's nought so strange as folk. One minute you're flavour of the month the next you're not.”

The Liberal Democrats lost two seats to the Tories including their parliamentary candidate and long-time councillor Ann Haigh who lost in the Buckhurst Hill West ward after a recount despite polling the second highest amount of votes across the entire election.

Group leader Jon Whitehouse said: “It was always going to be tough. Obviously it's a blow to lose Ann and Roland who were very strong councillors. But across the board we have got a number of very strong second places.”

Although they gained the Lib Dem seats and also won back Lower Nazeing from independent candidate Toni Cooper, the Conservatives did lose two seats to the LRA including cabinet member Mitch Cohen.

Council leader Di Collins said: “I think we've done really well although I'm sorry about losing the Loughton seats because we have struggled to gain a toehold there.”

The Conservatives now have an increased majority and control 36 of the 58 district council seats.

Mrs Collins said: “It's the most comfortable we've been for many years. People have worked very hard.”

The LRA are still coming to terms with their new status as official opposition.

Spokesman Michael Benbow said: “What can I say, it's what we wanted. A lot of people have worked very hard for this result and it's a very good result for the town.

“There's a good community spirit in this town. Residents feel it has unique qualities. It's detached from Buckhurst Hill, it has the forest, the Roding meadows and green spaces. People value that and they have shown it by investing in our candidates.”

How the LRA will operate in opposition is yet to be tested.

Mr Benbow said: “We are a campaign group and we have councillors as a means to an end. If we can upset things, have more influence and shake things up a bit that's our role.”

Mr Whitehouse said he still considered the Lib Dems to be the real opposition.

He said: “The LRA speak for Loughton but the rest of the district needs someone to speak for their views and we are the party to do that.”

The election took place across 20 wards with 21 councillors elected.

For full results see


Conservatives: 37 [up 1]

Loughton Residents Association: 10 [up 5]

Liberal Democrats: 7 [down 2]

Independents: 2 [down 1]

Labour: 1 [no change]

BNP: 1 [down 3]