‘Dorset local plan is flawed unless councils work together’


An open letter to Cllr David Walsh, holder of the Dorset Planning Council portfolio

I am writing to you because I am increasingly concerned about the size and scope of the proposals contained in the Dorset Local Plan.

It seems the plan contains many tired old ideas about solving housing issues by building on green land – often far from existing settlements. DOR 13 is the most extreme of this old-fashioned “new town” type of town planning.

Right now, coming as it is at the end of a pandemic and at a time of great change in the use of traditional buildings in city centers, it is surely the time to seize the moment to develop a local plan. both innovative. and successful.

One of which Dorset can be proud.

At first glance, this may not seem relevant for a rural environment such as Dorset: the county has no towns.

But, of course, that’s not the whole story. If we look at the agglomeration of Bournemouth / Christchurch / Poole, we have a larger settlement than Southampton, Portsmouth or Exeter.

Thus, the agglomeration is equivalent in size to a large city.

Therefore, the reported move from offices and businesses to homes is highly relevant. Even in small towns, such as Dorchester and Wimborne, council offices and other buildings quickly become empty and retail spaces turn into home use. So immediately we can see that the old approaches to town planning need to change.

New homes don’t have to be equated with building new homes and destroying the green lungs that towns like Dorchester depend on.

Second, you have stated that you are preparing to build houses which are not only allocated to the Dorset Council area but also those allocated to the BPC Council. Why?

I understand that it is the responsibility of the planning authority that develops a local plan to think and work strategically.

It means thinking outside the narrow confines of a single authority, but considering working in conjunction with neighboring authorities.

In our case, it’s East Devon, South Somerset, Wiltshire and BPC. Obviously, it would be absurd to plan development in Sherborne without considering Yeovil (analogous to Dorchester & Weymouth’s dormitory / commuting relationship). It would be equally strange to plan developments in Bridport without considering Crewkerne, Chard and Axminster.

Now when you consider the eastern part of Dorset the relationship with BPC cannot be ignored and, given the pressures you are already seeing, this means that the councils inevitably have to work together. But, of course, Dorset isn’t the only player here – and not the only one BPC can call on to help him hit his own target (why can’t he?).

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

To summarize. Regardless of the rapidly changing work environment, the local plan is imperfect.

Without considering the strategic options for collaboration with our neighboring councils, the local plan is deeply flawed.

Without considering any of these issues, the local plan is seriously flawed.

Neil matthews

Athelstan Road, Dorchester


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