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Housing targets in Dorset are too high

Peter Neal, Chair of Trustee, Dorset CPRE Peter Neal, Chair of Trustee, Dorset CPRE

2nd November 2018

Housing targets across Dorset’s local planning areas are between 30% and 40% more than the demographic analysis would suggest


Peter Neal provided the following comments following the recent reporting of objections to the proposals for the development North of Dorchester:

‘’As Chairman of the Dorset CPRE I have been following the reporting of the objections to the proposals for the development North of Dorchester. Whilst this site, in particular, is being proposed within the West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland revised local plan we are facing similar situation all over our lovely County of Dorset.

I do think though we have to understand how these developments are coming about. The government has set a target of building 300,000 houses per year. It devised a formula to be used across the country to determine housing need in each Local Planning Authority (LPA). The formula ensures that targets are higher in those areas where affordability is an issue – Dorset is in such a position. It appears, therefore, that targets across Dorset’s local planning areas are between 30% and 40% more than the demographic analysis would suggest. To accommodate this level of housing, sites are being proposed, such as North of Dorchester which are destroying good farming land, many historical settings and the landscape which is Dorset. A recent survey found that Dorset is the top county, with Devon, in the public’s view of what is a beautiful location. We run the risk, therefore, of concreting over our farms and so affecting our landscape that our tourist business is affected too; two of the most important drivers in the Dorset economy. However, before any more such land is brought forward there should be a brownfield first policy.

Brownfield Sites Register across Dorset shows sites which could accommodate over 16,000 houses but only about a third of these have any applications on them. In West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland for example there are over 2,600 such sites hardly any of which appear in the revised local plan. However even then these sites are not being brought forward as high priority. Why not!

It is also very clear that even with such high targets, houses will not be delivered that are truly affordable.  Many local people will still not be able to afford to buy or rent the houses that are being built. The priority should be satisfying this need before all else. In this regard it is good to see that Magna are now proposing to build several hundred dwellings across their area. We should also be seeing many more Community Land Trusts being formed with covenants for dwellings in them only to for local people.

Finally more care has to go into the design of any developments proposed. Regardless of the issue of the suitability of the site at North Dorchester one doesn’t have any confidence that the proposed builders will deliver a sympathetically designed development. A least one of them has a business model which would indicate, from experience of them across Dorset, that they will deliver a set of standard houses which could be on a large estate anywhere in England. This is not good enough, when looking at sensitive sites being developed.  Excellent architecture and good landscape design might mitigate the undoubted harm that is being done to our area. With the will we should be able to build the right type of housing in the right places for the right people ,the problem is  do the authorities have the will to do so!’’


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