A councillor has resigned over an 'appalling' planning appeal decision and what he called 'much greater censorship'.

Ben Woodruff, who has represented Ducklington, Curbridge and Lew on West Oxfordshire District Council for 10 years, decided to quit after Ainscough Strategic Land won its appeal to build 120 homes on an ancient meadow known as Moors Field in Ducklington.

The developer was unanimously refused permission by West Oxfordshire District Council's planning committee in March 2022 but won its appeal in February this year.

Mr Woodruff said: "With regret I have made the difficult decision to stand down as the Councillor for Ducklington, Curbridge and Lew with immediate effect.

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"It’s been a privilege to represent this ward, but I now feel that I am unable to do this."

Conservative Mr Woodruff said it was getting harder for councillors to influence decisions in their own wards.

He said: "The council is not the same place that I joined 10 years ago, and their direction has changed course dramatically.

"It is getting harder for councillors to have influence over decisions affecting their wards and I refer specifically to the appalling decision by the Government inspector to grant planning permission for 120 homes on The Moors despite huge objections from the village, the Parish Council and myself."

Oxford Mail:

Matt Barker, chair of Ducklington Parish Council, said residents were also 'shocked' by decision and the council did not agree with the Inspector that the development would result in 'limited harm'. 

After the appeal, Mr Woodruff argued that The Moors was not in the Local Plan as a development site and under normal circumstances would not have been successful at appeal.

He blamed WODC's current inability to demonstrate a five-year land supply for allowing the developer to succeed on 'a technicality'.

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Councils must show there is enough land dedicated within its local plan to cater for an adequate number of new homes over the next five years or more robust reasons must be given for refusal.

Mr Woodruff said: "This wasn't helped by WODC's failure to maintain a five-year housing land supply and therefore greatly weakening its ability to defend unwanted planning applications now and in the future."

And he added: "As councillors we are also now subject to much greater censorship, and I’m not prepared to be silenced from having an opinion on various issues."

Mr Woodruff said he was taking some time out of local politics "to focus on my own wellbeing and that of my family".


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This story was written by Miranda Norris, she joined the team in 2021 and covers news across Oxfordshire as well as news from Witney.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Miranda.Norris@newsquest.co.uk. Or find her on Twitter: @Mirandajnorris

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