Campaigners against 4,000 new homes in Dorchester say a councillor’s comments in response to their concerns are ‘misleading’ and say they fear the plan is a done deal – despite thousands of objections.
Members of STAND (Save the Area North of Dorchester) were pleased to see their concerns aired in our last edition. However they say the comments made by Councillor David Walsh painted the projected new homes planned for countryside north of Dorchester as a foregone conclusion, when they have not yet been included in any concrete plans for the area.
As reported in edition 23 of this magazine, STAND, the CPRE and DDB (Dorset Deserves Better) are pushing for a comprehensive response to their concerns after being told the Local Plan has been delayed by at least two years.
The ‘Norchester’ development, which could see hundreds of acres of water meadows and countryside north of the town developed into homes, saw more than 9,000 people adding their names and tens of thousands of comments to a consultation.
In the 20 months since the consultation campaigners have pushed for a report from Dorset Council, but nothing has been forthcoming. And now any further action on the plan has been put back to 2024.
Those against the plan include councillors and West Dorset MP Chris Loder.
Cllr David Walsh, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for planning, told The West Dorset Magazine last month: “The North Dorchester Garden Community development is already part of the adopted West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland local plan and is part of the future of Dorset.”
But that ignited a pretty robust response.
STAND member Linda Poulsen said: “The quote from Cllr David Walsh is very misleading, to put it politely… DOR13 has not been adopted, Cllr W is not adopting a neutral stance as he is required to do by law.”
Neil Matthews, Hon Sec of STAND, said: “Cllr Walsh makes some strange and questionable assertions. He states that the North Dorchester Garden Community’ is already part of the adopted West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland local plan and is part of the future of Dorset’. Really?
“According to Dorset Council’s own web site, development north of Dorchester was first included in the 2018 Review of the (2015) Adopted Local Plan, when it was greeted by strong opposition. This opposition was ignored and a bid for Garden Community status was subsequently submitted. There was no mention of development north of Dorchester or a North Dorchester Garden Community in the 2015 adopted West Dorset Local Plan.
“Stating that the development is already “part of the future of Dorset” proves Cllr Walsh’s determination to build these 4,000 non-affordable houses whatever the concerns expressed by local people and authorities such as Wessex Water and the Environment Agency. Such predetermination cannot be in the interest of the people of Dorset and is contrary to codes of conduct.”
A Dorset Council spokesman said: “Cllr Walsh has a responsibility as portfolio holder for planning to make sure that we produce a Local Plan that abides by national planning policy – This is his role as an elected member.
“The area north of Dorchester was included in two consultations for the review of the West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland Local Plan, as well as the consultation on the Dorset Council Local Plan, and as such has already been consulted upon widely. But no decisions have been made yet about any of th