In ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ Thomas Hardy describes Dorchester as ‘compact as a box of dominoes. It had no suburbs in the ordinary sense. Country and town met at a mathematical line’. I am writing to you to protest most profusely at the proposed development for the North of Dorchester spanning land from Charminster across the water-meadows to the Stinsford bypass. At the outset I would like to make clear that I am not against affordable housing for local people in the town but the site and scale for the development with 4,000 houses (25% larger than Poundbury) would not be in- keeping or sensitive to the heritage and character of Dorchester. Rather, the scheme appears to have been planned to meet government targets.
Furthermore, we need to consider the impact on the town. Over 4,000 houses would increase the population of Dorchester by around 35%. An increase such as this would create additional pressure on the NHS. Alongside this the pressure on schools, parking and public services would suffer. Also, as the development is beyond the water-meadows which flood during the wintertime there would be an effect on the environment. Apart from the environmental damage to the area, increased strain on an already creaking infrastructure and the loss of agricultural land would just be more of the same tactics used by the council to pander to developers’ and land owners’greed.
As a native of the town I remember fondly as a child walking around the River Frome and across the fields. This is an open area of countryside and is a site of national scientific importance with a species list of 117 birds, and otters have been recorded here. It is an important habitat for water voles and bats. My point is that building such a large settlement above the water-meadows may cause flooding and environmental damage that will irrevocably change Dorchester forever.
Moreover, the impact on the heritage of the town is at risk. The archaeology of the land proposed for development to the north of Dorchester is an internationally important cultural landscape with connections to the poet William Barnes, Thomas Hardy and the painter H. J. Moule and this draws tourists to visit from around the world. We must at all costs protect the character of the land here and its ‘timelessness’. Indeed, the countryside in question features in ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’. The town hosts a colourful and rich tapestry of history and we do not want to lose our distinctiveness. With the closure of many shops in the town and with empty flats and rooms in the centre of South, Trinity and High streets this does not appear to be an appropriate time to be exploring such a massive scale development more suitable to an urban community.
Ultimately, I would implore Councillor Walsh and Dorset Council to think again. I urge your readers to make a stand during this consultation period before our landscape is lost forever. To do this please use the following links and submit your response by Monday 15 March 2021:
- write an email to your local MP Chris Loder firstname.lastname@example.org or write a letter to Chris Loder MP, House of Commons, Westminster, SW1 OAA
- email the Spatial Planning Department at Dorset Council email@example.com or write a letter Spatial Planning Dept, Dorset Council, South Walks House, Dorchester, DT1 1UZ
- email the landowners Ilchester Estates firstname.lastname@example.org and Cokers Frome Ltd, DT2 7SD
Mark Damon Chutter