INTERNAL documents have shown that membership of the LibDem party has collapsed by more than a quarter over a year as discontent with the direction of the party has grown amongst young members.

Party membership is down 27% on this time last year, a document prepared ahead of the LibDem annual conference later this month has shown.

And some members said the fall was due, in part, to the party vocally opposing now-ditched planning reforms by the Tory government during the by-election in Chesham and Amersham in June.

Leaflets from the LibDems at the time attacked the policy and included quotes from prominent Tories such as former prime minister Theresa May and former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith criticising the reforms.

READ MORE: Tory planning reforms ripe for rebellion in wake of crushing by-election defeat to the LibDems

In a shock result, Lib Dem Sarah Green (below) ended up overturning a 16,000-plus Tory majority to win by 8028 votes, a swing of 25%.

But activists said a focus on “nimby-ism” – an acronym for “not in my back yard” that has come to symbolise opposition to development – was causing young members to “become more and more dejected by the day”.

Reports have suggested the Government’s reforms – which included plans to remove the public’s right to object to planning applications through creating zonal areas – will be watered down.

The National:

READ MORE: Boris Johnson tries to play down by-election loss to the LibDems

Ed Davey (above), who leads the UK LibDems, is currently targeting 20 of the so-called “blue wall” Tory seats which he considers vulnerable.

Young LidDems have said they are uncomfortable with the direction Davey is taking the party. 

Activist Freddie Poser, a former party organiser for the Westminster and City LibDems, said: “On planning, specifically, the [by-election] campaign was run entirely on this nimby basis.”

And he said: “If our next General Election campaign were on this basis, how could I stand on the doorstep and fight for a party that I know is not doing the things they know have to be done to tackle the housing crisis? I’d certainly consider my future campaigning for the party.

“If our General Election campaigns were as bad as our Chesham and Amersham campaign, I would absolutely have to consider my membership.”

Poser, 21, said he did not think there had been an “exodus”, but that was because politically there was “nowhere to go… so I hold my nose and stay because there are some good things about the party”.

He added young members were “becoming more and more dejected by the day”.

READ MORE: London-based media outlet mocked for claim Scotland is LibDems' 'only hope'

Fraser Coppin, co-chair of the Liberal Reform pressure group, suggested some of the membership drop may be those who had joined during the peak of Brexit, but he admitted “there has definitely been some discontent, particularly among the younger members, myself included”.

He said the by-election campaign “was done in such a way that basically, they were just against any kind of new housing being built in the area, and evidently, as a strategy that had some validity because we did win”.

But Coppin, 26, a party member for six or seven years who has put forward a motion supporting housebuilding at the LibDem conference next weekend, said: “It was very frustrating to people like myself, who would like to see the party take a more pro-housing stance.

“For me personally, it’s definitely put me off. I’m about as disillusioned with the party as I’ve ever been."

The National:

The LibDems are capitalising on the by-election win to target the so-called “blue wall” of Tory seats in southern England.

The party has drawn up a “promise breaker” hitlist, targeting 20 of the 317 Conservative MPs in marginal seats, attacking the Tory’s increase in national insurance.

And Davey warned the Tories are “losing touch with their votes across the blue wall”.

He previously said planning, among other issues, had prompted a “strong tide of dissatisfaction” across formerly safe Tory seats.

But he insisted he was not a nimby – and houses did need to be built.

He previously said it was wrong to see the debate as “between the wrong homes in the wrong places and no homes at all”.

A LibDem spokesperson said: “The Liberal Democrats are proud of our historic by-election victory in Chesham and Amersham that forced the Conservatives to drop their undemocratic planning reforms.

“We want to see 300,000 more homes built a year including 100,000 social homes for rent, through an approach that puts local communities not developers first.

“Membership of the party remains at historically high levels despite falling slightly from its peak after the EU referendum. Morale in the Liberal Democrats is high ahead of this year’s autumn conference, with voters across the Blue Wall switching to us from the Conservatives after their manifesto-breaking and unfair tax on young families and workers.”