Dorset CPRE and Dorset Deserves Better Alliance ask for more consultation as council delays Local Plan, says Rupert Hardy, chair of North Dorset CPRE
extra time to prepare its new Local Plan; the government has agreed the Council’s request to extend the deadline to 2026. Dorset CPRE and Dorset Deserves Better now call on the Council to use this time to consult and work openly with communities on a Local Plan that responds to Dorset people’s concerns, priorities and needs.
DC’s statement to Cabinet on 26 July indicates that they will take more time to consider the new Local Plan for Dorset, as it will set the pattern of housing and other development for the next 15 years. Dorset CPRE and Dorset Deserves Better welcome the delay and the Council’s aim to secure protection for Dorset from speculative development in the meantime. The removal of the ‘duty to cooperate’ with neighbouring authorities also means it does not now need to make up for a shortfall of homes from the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area.
A loud mandate
The Council’s statement summarises the key messages it received from the unprecedented 9,000 responses to consultation on the first draft Local Plan. Local people said loud and clear they want a Local Plan which delivers:
- the right development in the right places, and of the right quality.
- Lower housing numbers based on recent data, not the out-dated assumptions currently being used.
- More truly affordable homes, social homes and affordable rental properties for Dorset’s working families and young people.
- Protection for Dorset’s unique natural environment and Greenbelt.
- Action on the Climate and Ecological Emergencies.
- Necessary infrastructure including public transport, health and education services, and utilities.
Dorset CPRE shares these concerns and priorities. The list sets a mandate for Dorset Council to develop a genuinely local approach to the Local Plan for Dorset, including the key issues of housing numbers, locations and affordability.
Genuine sustainable needs
We look forward to DC discussing with our communities what housing numbers and locations they now have in mind. The Council’s reference to ‘more focus on new or significantly expanded settlements to help deliver the longer-term growth needs of Dorset’ will ring alarm bells for somes, particularly given concern regarding the 3,750 homes proposal for north Dorchester.
DC referred earlier this year to 22,000 houses as opposed to the earlier DC target of up to 39,000. This independent lower estimate of Dorset’s genuine and sustainable needs was supported by Dorset CPRE, Dorset Deserves Better and many others. Since then, population projections have fallen further.
DC now say that Dorset can be a pilot for a new national approach to Local Plans, including ‘national development management policies’ and ‘streamlined processes’. It will be vital that national systems do not contradict local communities’ needs and priorities.
Peter Bowyer, Chair of the Trustees of Dorset CPRE, says ‘We call on the Council to listen to our communities and stand up for the priorities and concerns that local people clearly expressed in consultation on the first draft Local Plan. We look forward to joining in a positive and constructive discussion with the council about the Local Plan that Dorset wants and needs’.
Giles Watts of the Dorset Deserves Better Campaign says ‘We welcome Dorset Council’s announcement which supports many of the issues we have been asking for. We applaud the council’s decision to listen to the concerns of local people and change direction in a way which we believe will be very positive for the future of Dorset.
Nevertheless, we still have some concerns over the lack of emphasis on brownfield developments first and the impact of new greenfield developments.
We believe that rewriting the Local Plan is a huge opportunity for the Council to progress a radically different and exciting vision of the future based on renewable energy, green jobs, care for the natural environment and, ultimately, supporting the needs of Dorset people.’.