A DARLINGTON councillor who was elected to serve on the unitary authority by a margin of 15 votes over her two closest rivals has left the Labour group to become an Independent member.

Harrowgate Hill councillor Lynn Paley said she had “not fallen out with the Labour Party”, but had “fallen in love with nature” while becoming increasingly concerned about the need to protect green spaces around the town, especially Skerningham and Barmpton.

She said: “The main parties seem to be failing to address this. We simply cannot continue to build houses and roads in our precious green spaces, and show no regard for nature, the environment, animals or our own future.

“I agree we need more homes. But let’s build them in the town centre.”

As a result, the 50-councillor authority now has 23 Conservatives, 17 Labour Party members, three Liberal Democrats, three Independent group members, two Green Party councillors and two Independents.

Labour Group leader Councillor Stephen Harker thanked Cllr Paley for her ongoing work as a councillor.

He said: “Without question she works diligently on behalf of Harrowgate Hill residents – and I’m sure she will continue to do so as an Independent.

“Lynn was newly elected in 2019. Being a new councillor is always a daunting experience, and that has especially been the case because of the pandemic over the last 18 months. I wish her well for the future.”

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said the borough’s Labour Party was now being rejected by its councillors. He said: “The question needs to be asked why? I only hope it wasn’t more bullying.”