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Dorset’s green fields under threat from developers

Corfe Castle located in the Dorset AONB Corfe Castle located in the Dorset AONB Rupert Hardy

18th November 2021

PR-2 Some 56% of Dorset is designated as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), more than any other county in England.

Press release no2

Some 56% of Dorset is designated as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), more than any other county in England. Much of the housing proposed in the draft Dorset Local Plan will be built either in or very close to AONB land, changing forever the county’s unique landscape and rich biodiversity.

Research carried out by CPRE, the Countryside Charity, reveals that housing that has been approved in AONBs nationally, since 2017/18, is overwhelmingly large executive homes, with only 16% affordable housing. Dorset Council is one of the main authorities regularly surrendering green fields as opposed to brownfield sites.

Natural England and a number of neighbouring authorities are critical of the Dorset plan. For example, “Natural England considers there is limited scope for major new development within the Dorset AONB above that already allocated.” With reference to development at Blandford Forum, they state that “The scale and location of the development will inevitably result in residual adverse impacts on the Cranborne Chase AONB.”

By contrast, numerous developers’ submissions propose reducing the current protection of AONBs. Wyatt Homes suggests “these sites should not be excluded simply because the village is within the AONB”. Persimmon Grainger admit that part of the proposed Dorchester development would have an impact on the setting of the AONB, but promise to minimize any “specific, evidenced reports” by tree planting. Wates Construction request acceptance of “limited” adverse impacts to land and seascape, rather than none.

Rupert Hardy, Chair of North Dorset CPRE, commented:

Dorset Council admits that the public interest test used to justify the release of AONB for major development is necessary to meet its excess housing target and Cllr David Walsh concedes it is ‘likely’ that protected areas will be affected by development. This means that town and parish councils who believe themselves protected from development are enjoying a false sense of security.

Town and parish councils who responded to the draft Dorset Local Plan, represent 287,000 voters. Of these, 88% do not agree with the plan, which proposes just over 4,500 homes in or within 250m of an AONB.

Dorset CPRE now calls for Dorset Council to acknowledge the overwhelming public opposition to the Local Plan and to accept that its findings put at risk the special areas of Dorset's countryside. Accordingly, we believe it is now timely to revisit the whole Plan, especially in the light of recent statements by Michael Gove, who clearly signalled a shift towards greater recognition of AONBs as meriting special consideration in future development plans.



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