Stalbridge Drowning Under New Housing


The small historic Dorset town with fewer than 3,000 residents faces 550 new homes – CPRE have deep concerns around insufficient infrastructure

Development land for up to 130 homes recently sold in Stalbridge
All images:
Jane Westbrook

The small historic town of Stalbridge is now suffering from massive overdevelopment – seemingly much more than any other North Dorset town. There have been applications for 550 new dwellings in the last seven years – in a town with a population of under 3,000.
The most recent is a 160-home estate applied for by Gladman. There is the usual promise “to work with the local community, for the benefit of everyone”, but the development appears more for the benefit of the landowner and their agents.
There are certainly no visible benefits to Stalbridge itself in saturating this small town with yet more housing. There is a housing need – throughout Dorset there are currently 4,500 households in need of a home. But Dorset’s housing enablement officer states that only 35 of these have a connection to Stalbridge and it would be “better to deliver any further affordable homes in areas where there is greater demand and better infrastructure”.
The flood risk engineer’s report can be summarised as seeing “an element of flood risk which will be hard to dispel”.
Climate change experts report that the south west will be prone to heavier rainfall and a likelihood of more flooding so, following common sense, housing should not be built where any flood risk exists.
Education services confirm a new school “must be delivered” within the development, but S106 monies allocated will not be sufficient to pay for this school, so who will fund the rest, when nationwide our schools are seriously underfunded?

Traffic queuing down the A357 through the town

What Bus Service?
The transport report for the new application suggests a good bus service through Stalbridge – but this is not the case.
Dorset Council (DC) policy states that new houses should be built where there is sustainable public transport, as well as employment opportunities and amenities in order to avoid car usage. In this development, S106 money (developer contributions) is allocated to build one bus shelter, a flag pole and real time information – who will then be paying for the extra buses required to make this a viable mode of travel?
Without adequate bus services, new homes will mean a high number of car journeys, not just damaging for the environment but causing congestion through the constricted town centre.

As an ancient town, Stalbridge has a narrow main street which is also the busy A357 route from the A303/Wincanton through to Sturminster Newton and on to Blandford and other southern destinations. Do we see any provision for safety crossings, new footpaths, and traffic signals for the single lane area?
DC Highways on 17 May posted a deferral on any comment. At time of writing there is still no comment. This may be a good indication that they realize the implications of a further loading of car journeys to an already crumbling road system.
The proposed houses all have very small gardens – yet we see no plans for land to be set aside for allotments, even though c£306 per dwelling has been allocated for this.

Housing estate currently under construction in Stalbridge

Lack of Facilities
It is reported that Stalbridge has a wide choice of shops and facilities, but locals are very aware this is not the case. Families will undoubtedly drive to shop at the many discount supermarkets available in Wincanton and other larger towns. The one existing supermarket has limited parking to accommodate a great increase in households, and the relatively few shops are mostly on the High Street, where parking is extremely restricted. Heavy goods and farm vehicles pass frequently along the A357, and any cars parked on the High Street cause rapid traffic disruption. Add this to the single traffic lane in the centre of town and Highways need a genius plan to avoid total gridlock.
Dorset Council promise to build the “right homes in the right places”, to protect our natural environment and aim for a zero carbon future. Building a further 160 houses in a small town that does not need them, does not have the infrastructure to support them nor a wide range of employment opportunities, within a conservation area, on a tract of land that is prone to flooding, delivering a known increase of many hundreds of polluting car journeys onto an already constricted road system – why would Dorset Council even consider allowing this?

New housing estate under construction in Stalbridge

Time to say no
Unfortunately, due to lack of housing delivery over many years, it would seem that there is now a thin line of defense against any new housing proposals. Wherever land can be acquired by strategic land agents from an interested landowner, that is where the houses will be built – rather than where they are needed. With the financial resources to go to appeal on every contested planning application, land agents and developers have seen that Dorset Council is in fear of the legal costs incurred in fighting the appeals. It should be noted that most people who actually live in Stalbridge, including Ward Councillor Graham Carr Jones, are vehemently against
this latest development.
Dorset CPRE works to protect and enhance the countryside, and we cannot be supportive of this application. We want to see new houses built for those who urgently need them – but families need to live in a place where they can find jobs, schools, doctors and dentists, a wide choice of shops and some leisure facilities – and public transport to gain access to all of these. Stalbridge is a small town with Saxon origins, and it simply does not have these facilities. It is not the right place to build more houses – enough is enough.

Jane Westbrook
North Dorset CPRE


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