There are a number of grounds for objecting to this development, including:
Impact on Dorchester– over 4,000 houses would increase the population of Dorchester by about 35%. An increase like this would create additional pressure on the Hospital and healthcare services, schools, parking, public transport, cultural facilities and public services. Dorchester’s services are simply not big enough to accommodate this increase in population.
Dorset Council’s proposal gives 61% of the required housing allocation for the whole of the district to Dorchester. STAND believes it would be better to share this more equally between the towns and villages.
Connection to Dorchester and road links– as the development is beyond the watermeadows (which flood most winters), there is little opportunity to build connections into the town. The proposal shows a road through the development from the A35 to the B3147 weirs road and claims to answer traffic needs. The plans appear to show the link road going past a new school and through a residential area. It’s not a northern bypass; it looks like it will be a rat-run.
Impact on the environment– this is an open area of countryside with the River Frome being a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a further SSSI being just downstream. There is a species list of 117 birds, and otters have been recorded here. It is an important habitat for water voles and bats and there are veteran trees and rare lichens. If you know of any unusual species of animals and plants here send in your records via www.derc.org.uk
It is also a much-loved open space with many rights of way.
Building a large settlement above the watermeadows will affect the water run-off and may cause changes such as additional flooding or drying. This could affect the SSSI downstream and possibly also the internationally-important Poole Harbour wetlands site.
Impact on the heritage– the archaeology of the area is not very well known, but there have been prehistoric and medieval finds here. It is an internationally-important cultural landscape, with connections to the writers Thomas Hardy and William Barnes and the painter H.J. Moule. A previous planning inspection stated that this added to the case for paying special attention to safeguarding its character, referencing its ‘timelessness’.
Impact on our tourism– Dorchester’s tourist economy has been strengthened in recent years and is based on our connections with Thomas Hardy, our rich history and our local distinctiveness. The town council is currently working on a Heritage Tourism Strategy for Dorchester. A new Bradt’s guide describes it: “You may be tempted to assume that Dorchester, being Dorset’s county town, is large, crowded and surrounded by new, soulless housing developments. That is not the case. Dorchester is full of old-world charm and with around 20,000 inhabitants is a very manageable size. The countryside and villages around it are alluring and it only takes a brief look at a road atlas to see that many of Dorset’s archaeological and historical attractions are in this area.” The new development would demolish this distinctiveness.
The appeal of Dorset to visitors and many residents is its countryside and coast, its smaller scale towns and villages, the importance of its farming and food production, arts and crafts and the opportunity for greener lifestyles. Dorchester is not one of those commuter-belt towns of the south-east; developments like this could severely damage the Dorset ‘brand’.
Impact on Housing– Many people, particularly younger people locally, may think the only way to get their own place to live is to allow this North Dorchester development to go ahead in the hope it will include some “affordable” house/flats to buy, to rent of to part buy and rent (shared equity).