Hardy's Wessex Once Again Under Threat!
The STAND Committee have uncovered a deception which could lead to 30 000 homes being built on top of Far From the Madding Crowd land.
The following letter has been presented to the Dorset Council.
Save The Area North of Dorchester
9 Orchard Street Dorchester Dorset DT1 1JH
Cllr. David Taylor
County Hall, Colliton Park
Dorset DT1 1XJ
12th February 2020
We, the undersigned, are very concerned about the accuracy of the information given in the application, dated November 2018, for central government funding for the Garden Communities initiative for the DOR 15 site north of Dorchester. This site was put forward as a “preferred option” in the WDDC Local Plan Review and is still, apparently, under consideration in the new unitary Dorset Council’s Local Plan.
We believe some of the critical evidence, used to support the application for funds, constitutes a serious misrepresentation of the facts.
Two letters, written by Dorchester Town Council (dated 5th November 2018) and Stinsford Parish Council (dated 8th November 2018), have been misrepresented as support for the development of the DOR 15 site and were used as evidence for the tick given on Page 14 of the Bid to indicate “Local Community support.” Both the Town Clerk of Dorchester and the Parish Clerk of Stinsford made it very clear in their respective letters that they were opposed to development on the DOR 15 site. These fundamental facts have been ignored in the Bid document in favour of the views addressed later in these letters that, if this or any other site is going to be developed, then the development would be better if conducted under the principles enshrined in the Garden Communities initiative.
In the Bid document there is a quote at the bottom of page two from the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Despite the quote starting “If the development does take place in North Dorchester….” there is no mention of the fact that the letter containing this quote clearly stated that the Trust was opposed to any development north of Dorchester. The current quote reads as if DWT is in favour of development on the DOR 15 site and this is clearly not the case.
Such distortion of the local community’s views constitutes a serious deception on the part of the now non-existent WDDC. However it appears that the new unitary Dorset Council are still considering the DOR 15 site in their Draft Local Plan despite these clear objections made by both local Councils.
The Dorchester Civic Society, the Thomas Hardy Society, the local branch of the CPRE and the Dorset Wildlife Trust share the concerns set out in this letter about the way in which the views of local organisations have been misrepresented by the Council in order to put the Bid in the best possible light.
Objections to development on the DOR 15 site were also made by the vast majority of individuals who responded to the consultation on WDDC’s “preferred options” in its Local Plan Review.
The Bid document makes no reference whatsoever to these many other objections to development on the DOR 15 site and we believe, as a direct consequence, that the grant was approved on the basis of incorrect information.
For the avoidance of any doubt, and on behalf of the above organisations, we reiterate our strong objection in principle to development on the DOR 15 site north of Dorchester.
We would appreciate your comments on the above matter.
STAND Committee Member
pp. Dr Tony Fincham
Chairman, The Thomas Hardy Society
PS Copies of these letters are available for inspection if needed.
cc. The Minister, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Head of Garden Communities Team, Ministry of Housing, Communities and
Chris Loder Member of Parliament
Matt Prosser, Chief Executive, Dorset Council
John Sellgren, Director of Place, Dorset Council
Hilary Jordan, Planning (Community and Policy Development) Corporate
Manager, Dorset Council
Terry Sneller, Planning Department, Dorset Council
Cllr. Spencer Flower, Leader, Dorset Council
Cllr. David Walsh, Portfolio Holder for Planning
All other Councillors, Dorset Council
The following letter was sent from the Dorchester Town Council to the Planning & Environment Committee, Ministry for Housing:
DORCHESTER TOWN COUNCIL
Council Offices, 19 North Square, Dorchester, Dorset. DT1 1JF
Telephone: (01305) 266861 e-mail: A.Stuart@dorchester-tc.gov.uk
Robin Potter, Chair Planning & Environment Committee
Adrian Stuart, Town Clerk
Head of the Garden Communities Team
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street
11 February 2020
WEST DORSET DISTRICT COUNCIL (now DORSET COUNCIL) GARDEN COMMUNITIES BID
It has been brought to my attention, by a local action group known as STAND, that
Dorchester Town Council has been included as a named supporter to a bid for Garden
Communities funding, for an area to the north and outside the boundary of Dorchester. The
area was designated as DOR15 in a local plan consultation document circulated by West
Dorset District Council in 2018; the Town Council is also included as the named parish
authority in the bid application.
By the inclusion of Dorchester Town Council alongside others in the header for the
application, and by references to the Town Council’s Corporate Plan at sections 6a and 9a of
the document, it might be assumed that the Town Council supports the application. To be
clear, the Town Council has never considered supporting the application. If it did so my
expectation is that the Town Council would not wish to be party to this specific application.
Due to a very short notice period given by the District Council in 2018 to provide a letter of
support for the application the matter was not considered by the Town Council. Our Town
Clerk wrote a letter of support for the idea that Garden Communities principles should be
applied wherever in the district an area was ultimately designated for development through
a yet to be completed Local Plan process, whether on this or any other site in the district,
but also referenced the Council’s comments made through a recent Local Plan consultation
process relating to site DOR15.
The Town Council has previously objected to the inclusion of site DOR15 in the Local Plan for
a number of reasons, primarily relating to the need for extensive public infrastructure to be
in place. Coupled with a requirement to provide at least 35% affordable housing, the Council
felt strongly that these essential requirements would render the scheme unviable.
The likely outcome was that the scheme would then be delivered without providing key
parts of the essential infrastructure or affordable housing, something which sadly West
Dorset District Council had a consistently poor track record on. As these issues are unlikely
to be resolved satisfactorily the Town Council is likely to continue to oppose development in
the area covered by the bid in any future consultation relating to the Local Plan process.
I am concerned that, in submitting the bid document, West Dorset District Council failed to
reference the Town Council’s opposition to the specific site, instead interpreting a letter of
general support for Garden Communities principles provided at officer level as their
evidence of support for the scheme from the local Town Council.
As such I believe the bid document misrepresents the view of the Town Council and would
ask that the Town Council’s name is struck from the application (for accuracy the area under
discussion is not currently within the Town Council’s boundary so there is no reason for our
name to appear).
I would also request that any reference to the grant award to develop the Garden
Community idea does not reference the Town Council. While we cannot request that
reference to our Corporate Plan is removed from the bid document I would point out that
the Plan was written long before the idea of site DOR15 was proposed and that the
Council’s Corporate Plan is in no way supportive of the Garden Communities bid.
I would not wish this request to be interpreted as being negative towards the programme
you are managing; I believe that the Town Council would always want to see schemes
developed along Garden Community principles in preference to commercially controlled
development. The Town Council has not, however, given its support for this specific site
and I see little likelihood in our position changing in the future.
Chair of Policy Committee, Dorchester Town Council
c.c. John Sellgren, Director of Place, Dorset Council
The Thomas Hardy Society urges all who value Hardy's countryside to follow suit in writing to the Ministry for Housing, or emailing Dorchester Town Council.