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North Dorset CPRE Predict dire spate of speculative housing developments to continue well into 2019

Proposed construction site on beautiful countryside at Enmore Green, Shaftesbury Proposed construction site on beautiful countryside at Enmore Green, Shaftesbury

13th August 2018

Ever since August last year when North Dorset District Council (NDDC) admitted that its housing land had fallen well below the government required five years supply, a spate of speculative schemes has been launched by housing developers.


North Dorset CPRE has calculated that housing applications, in terms of numbers of multiple dwellings or houses, are up six fold from 541 to 3,250 dwellings for the year to May, 2017 and 2018 respectively, with the vast majority still awaiting planning decisions. This combined increase of nearly 4,000 homes compares to the existing number of dwellings of 32,400* in 2016 in North Dorset, approximately an increase of 12% and an unsustainable one. It is even more stark compared to the current government-imposed annual housing completions target of 444 homes for North Dorset. The government may be keen to boost housing nationally but this is totally excessive. The majority of applications are likely to be approved as councils fear the cost of fighting appeals.

Construction has only started on a few of the successful ones so far, and many may not see the light of day as developers are often keen to “landbank” rather than flood the market depressing house prices. However this still means that thousands of house owners will have sleepless nights worrying about the impact new developments will have on their homes, depressing values and ruining long cherished views over beautiful pristine Dorset countryside. Some of the greatest concerns are  that villages are seeing housing applications that will swamp their local infrastructure in terms of schools, shops, existing roads and doctors’ surgeries, while  little thought is going into employment prospects outside the larger towns, so many of the newcomers will become commuters clogging up  already congested roads.  Rural communities that have roots back to the Domesday Book are going to become mere dormitory towns, while tourism will suffer too with many of these villages featuring in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. The tally is frightening with applications for dwellings over the last year to May in Gillingham 1,885, Stalbridge 183, Marnhull 150, and  Okeford Fitzpaine 103.  CPRE are helping and advising a number of action groups fight the developers. 

A senior planning officer within NDDC has admitted that their housing land supply as at July 2018 will still be below five years, although the council is working with developers to improve delivery rates. The figure will be officially released in the next few weeks.  Rupert Hardy, Chairman of the North Dorset Group of CPRE says: “North Dorset is under siege with the floodgates fully open, and there are no signs of any change”. Sadly the government missed a chance to stop some of the more glaring planning deficiencies when it completed its revision of the National Planning Policy Framework a few weeks ago. This means another year of free- for-all as more housebuilders persuade more landowners to give up their land to provide very lucrative housing. CPRE are already aware of potential housing applications exceeding a thousand homes in Blandford, Fontmell Magna, Gillingham and Milborne St Andrew alone. One consequence is extended planning delays as planning teams struggle.

We would encourage planning committees and officers to be more courageous in rejecting the worst of the applications. Councillors are praying that the introduction of the new unitary authority in April 2019 will help but planning rules for the new authority will not become clear until early next year. Another year of anguish awaits North Dorset, while Thomas Hardy would be aghast at the wanton destruction planned for the villages and countryside he immortalised in his books!

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