A former Conservative councillor has urged voters to support an independent candidate to replace him, rather than his own party.

Ian Martin, who had represented Mattishall ward on Breckland Council since 2019, resigned due to ill health last month, triggering a by-election.

But instead of backing Conservative candidate Paul Plummer, Mr Martin has thrown his weight behind independent Maggie Oechsle - who currently serves on Yaxham Parish Council.

The former councillor said he and Ms Oechsle had “fought side by side for many years over planning issues at all levels in Yaxham and Breckland” and that she would be a “brilliant” successor to him.

Ms Oechsle was among several parish councillors last year who supported Mr Martin and Breckland’s opposition members in calling for the district’s local plan to be updated on a faster timetable than planned.

They argued this was necessary to prevent housing developers from gaining planning permission in inappropriate places across Breckland.

But the council’s Conservative majority voted for a slower timetable, saying the faster option would cause a budget overspend of £860,000 and leave no time to consult with residents on the new plan.

Mr Martin said: “It was therefore only natural that when she told me she was standing, and as both of us believe strongly that planning policy and plans should not be party political, that I decided to endorse her.

“That she is standing as an independent only reinforces her non-party political approach.

“Whilst there are many other responsibilities that Breckland has, it is development and infrastructure planning that has the capacity to affect all of Breckland's residents' lives - for good or ill - and should not be 'owned' by one party.

“She would be a vibrant voice for the residents of Mattishall ward, providing a work ethic and dynamism that I no longer can.”

Announcing his resignation last month, Mr Martin criticised Breckland as being too party-political and not transparent enough - a description the council’s deputy leader said he did not recognise.

In addition to Ms Oechsle and Conservative candidate Mr Plummer, there is also a Labour candidate, Kendra Cogman - who currently serves on Dereham Town Council.

Mattishall ward encompasses the area around Mattishall, East Tuddenham, Yaxham, Garvestone and Hardingham.

A hustings event is taking place on Wednesday, May 18, from 7-9pm in Mattishall Memorial Hall. The election is on Thursday, June 9.