Spring walk

10.30am Sunday 5 April 2020

Meet on Frome Terrace green (DT1 1JQ) by the bridge over the Millstream.

3.5 mile walk across the water-meadows and over the downland to the north of Dorchester, the countryside which would be destroyed by the proposed building of 3,500-4,000 houses. The walk, led by Alistair Chisholm of STAND and Tony Fincham of the Thomas Hardy Society, will explore the devastating effects that the proposed development would have on Hardy’s landscape, especially on the setting of Casterbridge/Dorchester.

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) – this is an outdoor event with low numbers of people. If you feel at all unwell or have any health problems, please do not attend. See Department for Health and Social Care for health information.

It is unlikely that the proposed walks on 19 April, 3 May and 6 June will go ahead.

Take a walk through Hardy’s timeless land


11am, Sunday 6 October

Join us on a two hour walk led by Dr Tony Fincham of the Thomas Hardy Society.

The walk will start from Frome Terrace green and will go along the river path and up past Higher Burton Farm to the Sheep Downs, before returning to Dorchester via Coker’s Frome.

Along the way, Tony will talk of the area’s significance to Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd and the short story The Three Strangers.

No booking necessary. Just turn up with walking boots and enjoy the wonderful scenery.

July update: what’s been going on?

Well, the good news is that Dorset Council is developing a new Local Plan for the whole of the new Dorset Council area and that they’ve published the results of the consultation on the development north of Dorchester here. The responses are overwhelmingly against the proposed development, so we hope there’s still a chance to persuade Dorset Council that the area north of Dorchester is not a suitable site for 3,500 houses.

But the potentially bad news is that the Government has given £150,000 to Dorset Council to develop a ‘North Dorchester Garden Village’. Garden Villages sound lovely and green, but the grant scheme is aimed at sites of 1,500 to 10,000 houses – so that’s actually a town up to about the size of Sherborne. It also gives priority to areas that will bear future expansion and seems to be about fast-tracking development anywhere in the country. Alarmingly, Oliver Letwin used his column in the Echo to enthusiastically promote this scheme.

We’re continuing to tell the Dorset Council why north of Dorchester is unsuitable, so if you have specialist knowledge that can add to our case, please let us know.

What we have been doing recently

We’ve put in a Freedom of Information request to see the bid for the ‘North Dorchester Garden Village’ grant.

We’ve asked questions at the Dorset Council on 18 July and will continue to ask questions at future Cabinet and Council meetings.

We’ve asked an environmental law specialist if there were any errors in the process when north of Dorchester was put forward.

We’ve asked for a meeting with Cllr. David Walsh, Cabinet Member for Planning.

What we’re doing next

We will be pressing the new Dorset Council on using their Garden Communities grant to look at other possible areas. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to have one somewhere in Dorset, but there may be better sites. There are some useful resources on Garden Communities here.

We are compiling evidence from a variety of sources and experts on why development should not take place on this site.