Witney planning chief's farewell plea to the young

Ian Morrow, pictured outside Witney Town Hall has retired from the planning department at West Oxfordshire District Council. Picture: OX57343 Ric Mellis

Ian Morrow, pictured outside Witney Town Hall has retired from the planning department at West Oxfordshire District Council. Picture: OX57343 Ric Mellis Buy this photo

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

A planning supremo who helped Witney double in size has called for the public to participate more in the planning process.

Ian Morrow joined West Oxfordshire District Council in 1974 and rose to become head of planning before his retirement last month.

He was involved in planning large housing estates, supermarkets and shopping centres, as well as redeveloping former blanket mills.

Mr Morrow said he could now not turn a corner in Witney without seeing a development he and his team had been involved in.

Witney’s population increased from 13,500 in the mid 1970s to 27,500 at the time of the 2011 Census.

Mr Morrow said: “I’d like to see people more involved in the planning system, and not only when they are directly affected by something.

“People can influence these things if they get involved at an early stage.”

Mr Morrow started his planning career in Belfast but moved to West Oxfordshire in July 1974 to escape The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

He said: “I loved Northern Ireland but I didn’t like what was going on there. I worked on both sides of the divide and found them all lovely people, and I could not understand why they could not live peacefully together.”

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He joined the district council after it was created and took over planning responsibilities from Oxfordshire County Council in April 1974.

Mr Morrow, who lives in Witney and is a grandfather, said: “When I came, Witney was pretty small.

“There was still blanket milling in some places, for instance in Bridge Street and where Sainsbury’s is, which have all now gone.”

Mr Morrow has been involved in housing developments including Madley Park and Cogges and industrial developments in Range Road.

He was also involved as part of a team in bringing Formula 1 teams to the district, Sainsbury’s opening and the Marriotts Walk and Woolgate shopping centres.

Mr Morrow added: “It is only now I’ve retired that I see I made an impact, although it is a team effort and I am only a small cog in the wheel.

“Everybody always asks whether I would do it over again or try something else, but looking back I’m glad.

“I feel proud I’ve encouraged lots of young people to get into planning and make a difference.”

Mr Morrow said the biggest threat facing planning was climate change, particularly for flooding.

He said: “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges but there is a lack of recognition it is even happening.

“A lot of people blamed the flooding in 2007 on climate change.”

Mr Morrow remained tight-lipped about how he planned to spend his retirement but said he was planning some holidays. He added: “At the moment I am just getting used to it.”

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