‘Dorset Local Plan is flawed unless councils work together’

The Dorset Local Plan consultation 2021 is now finished but here is the link to the consultation documents see also this article on the proposal for 30,500 new homes. Including CPRE comments.

New planning rules to be outlined next week. – Owl 

‘Dorset Local Plan is flawed unless councils work together’

Neil Matthews www.dorsetecho.co.uk

I am writing to you as I am becoming increasingly concerned by the size and scale of the proposals contained in the Dorset Local Plan.

It seems that the Plan contains many tired old ideas about solving the housing problems by building on green field sites – often away from existing settlements. DOR 13 is the most extreme of this type of oldfashioned “new-town” planning.

At this time, coming as it is at the end of a pandemic and at a time of great change to how traditional buildings are being used in town centres, surely this is the time to seize the moment to develop a Local Plan that is both innovative and successful.

One that Dorset can be proud of.

At first glance it may seem not relevant to a rural environment such as Dorset: the county not having any cities.

But, of course, that is not the whole story. If we look at the Bournemouth/Christchurch/ Poole conurbation we have a settlement bigger than Southampton, Portsmouth or Exeter.

So, the conurbation is equivalent in size to a major city.

Therefore, the reported move from office and retail space to homes is very relevant. Even in small towns, such as Dorchester and Wimborne, council offices and other buildings are rapidly becoming empty and retail spaces are changing to domestic use. So, immediately we can see that the old approaches to town planning need to change.

New homes do not have to equate with building new houses and destroying the green lungs that towns like Dorchester depend upon.

Secondly, you have put on record that you are preparing to build houses that are not only allocated to the Dorset Council area but also those allocated to BPC Council. Why?

My understanding is that it is the responsibility of the Planning Authority drawing up a Local Plan to think and work strategically.

That means thinking outside the narrow confines of a single authority, but to look at working collaboratively with neighbouring authorities.

In our case that is East Devon, South Somerset, Wiltshire and BPC. Clearly it would be nonsense to plan for development in Sherborne without considering Yeovil (analogous with the dormitory/commuting relationship of Dorchester & Weymouth). Equally weird would be to plan developments in Bridport without considering Crewkerne, Chard and Axminster.

Now when considering Dorset’s eastern reaches, the relationship with BPC cannot be ignored and, given the pressures that you already perceive, means that the councils must inevitably work together. But, of course, Dorset is not the only player here – and not the only one that BPC can call on to help it meet its own target (why can’t it?).

Hampshire shares a border with both Dorset and BPC. Therefore, strategically the three councils should and must work together.

So, to sum up. Without considering the rapidly evolving working environment, The Local Plan is flawed.

Without considering the strategic options of collaborating with our neighbouring councils, the Local Plan is deeply flawed.

Without considering either of these issues, the Local Plan is fatally flawed.

Neil Matthews

Athelstan Road, Dorchester