The Local Plan
The Local Plan was subject to Examination in Public (EiP) in recent months and currently North Dorset District Council is consulting on modifications to the plan, arising from the examination and views expressed there, prior to formal adoption. That apart, renewable energy continues to demand our attention. Meantime the C13 road near Shaftesbury has reopened but will close again for remedial works when they are agreed.
Our AGM in April was very well attended and successful. Changes proposed to the Local Plan include extension of the plan period to 2031, with an increase in proposed houses from 4200 to 5700. Of most concern for us is the proposal to increase the number of houses planned for Stalbridge and the larger villages from 230 to 825, amounting to almost 50 in each of the 18 designated villages, over the plan period. These larger villages will retain settlement boundaries that it had been planned to
remove. The Crown Meadows site in Blanford appears now to be safe from development but the implications of a recent sale to a company owned by the Rothermere family are unclear. There is an acknowledgement, in the revised plan, that replacement
proposals, following agreement not to develop the Crown Meadows, for houses in Blandford St Mary will require mitigation measure agreed by Natural England. The substantial southern extension at Gillingham is highlighted and recommended and
has been subject of much local consultation.
Renewable energy continues to absorb much of our time. The good news is that a proposal for large wind turbines in Winterborne Whitechurch was refused by North Dorset District Council following a strong campaign by a local group. More recently, though, a large solar installation at Mapperton, affecting villages in North Dorset and
covering more than 100 acres, slightly reduced from an earlier application, was approved by East Dorset District Council despite strong local opposition. While there is seemingly a weakening of support for renewable energy in government, we need to remain vigilant against any future unsuitable applications.
A rather different fear is of a Combined Authority for Dorset and the conurbations of Bournemouth and Poole, which may subordinate the needs of the rural county to those of the conurbations and give economic development priority over conservation and landscape protection. We are monitoring developments closely.