CAMPAIGNERS opposing the building of a giant hotel and water park in Oxfordshire say that the local community has been a victim of the UK’s ‘already-broken’ planning system.

The plans by Great Wolf Resorts (GWR) to build a Great Wolf Lodge next to the historic village of Chesterton next year were recently given the green light by planning inspector George Baird despite originally being unanimously turned down by Cherwell District Council.

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Last month’s verdict sent shock waves over the 36 parishes in north Oxfordshire that had united as Parishes Against the Wolf (PAW) to oppose the plans.

Campaigners’ lawyers studied the verdict but concluded there were insufficient grounds to mount a judicial review because the inspector had followed the correct procedures.

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Diane Bohm, founder of PAW and chairman of Weston-on-the-Green Parish Council, said: "The GWR appeal shows that our communities are victims of a planning system that is already broken - a single appointed official has been able, legally, to ignore the legal arguments put by 36 parishes and their representatives and to overturn the unanimous decision of our democratically elected local council.

"But because he apparently adhered to the correct procedures, we have no way of challenging his decision, however unfair or ridiculous it may seem to us."

Campaign group Stop the Wolf, which was also set up to fight against the resort, has also expressed how 'stunned' it was at the inspector's decision given the huge opposition it had.

Chairman Caroline Chipperfield-Twiddy said: "We were not only shocked and horrified by the appeal result - we were also bemused, particularly at how the inspector could dismiss our concerns about the 1,800 extra cars and lorries the development could bring to the area every day.

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"And we were frankly stunned at his uncorroborated statement that families would probably use the train to travel to this location - set as it is in open countryside - instead of simply getting in the car. However, as the correct procedure was followed, these do not warrant grounds for a judicial review.

"The fact that one appointed official can stifle local voices in this way, shows that our planning system is already broken - quite apart from future Government plans to make development even easier."

She also says the campaign's opposition to the development 'most definitely' continues.

Campaigners are now calling on MPs Victoria Prentis and John Howell - who have previously expressed their dismay at the appeal verdict - to raise the matter publicly and urgently in the House of Commons.

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A Planning Inspectorate spokesperson said: “There will always be parties who are opposed to or in favour of a development. Anyone who may be affected by a development is able to submit comments and we encourage communities to be engaged in the planning system.

“When making a decision the Inspector carefully considers all the evidence and comments made by people interested in the proposed development taking account of current planning legislation, policy guidance.”

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