‘Mundane’ Plans For New Shaftesbury Estate Refused

Plans for a new Shaftesbury housing estate were turned down last night (Tuesday). Shaftesbury town councillors didn’t like the design or the orientation of the 170-home development proposed for Littledown, opposite the entrance to Wincombe Business Park.

It was a lengthy debate and Redrow Homes was offered feedback on how they could alter their scheme to make it acceptable to Shaftesbury Town Council. But the developer doesn’t need to rip up and start all of their plans again.

Shaftesbury Civic Society Chairman, Roy Mitchell, applauded the proposed removal of unsightly cables and a new roundabout on the A350. “A roundabout enhances road safety. We also like the fact that there is lots of landscaping on the site. They are going to remove the pylons and the overhead power cables. We think they have planned it reasonably well in minimising the amount of property that is overlooked,” Roy told ThisIsAlfred.com.

Site viewed from the Wincombe Business Park entrance

Outline planning consent has already been granted for this land, which lies to the south of the Virginia Hayward premises. Roy said that he considered the meeting to be an opportunity to ‘improve the design of the houses to enhance the considerable architectural heritage of the town’. But the estate design wasn’t liked. Cllr Phillip Proctor referred to the building style as ‘gross’, ‘abysmal’ and featuring ‘designs of thirty to forty years ago’.

It was claimed that three-quarters of the site lies within the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and that prompted Cllr Lester Taylor to demand that Redrow return to the drawing board for a sympathetic re-design. A reference to Dorset building styles was requested. There was laughter at a joked suggestion of building a thatched estate before Cllr Proctor mused that the site style could be either contemporary or traditional, it just needed to be better. As Littledown is at ‘the entrance to Dorset and to our town’, Cllr Luke Kirton suggested that the local Shaftesbury greensand stone should be featured.

Redrow has proposed some three-storey flats on the estate. That style proved deeply unpopular. Nigel Wheeler lives opposite, at High Bank Cottage. He addressed the meeting, arguing that these buildings wouldn’t fit in with the lower rooflines at the top of Grosvenor Road. “I find them out of character with the area. They are badly sited as you enter the town. It’s an old town,” Nigel said.

Mayor Piers Brown announced that he was ‘irritated’ that these affordable homes were bunched together in ‘clumps’ on the site. He said that it sent ‘the wrong message’ and wanted them scattered across the estate.

Councillors also wanted a more sustainable development. The orientation of the buildings was considered wrong for placing effective solar panels. Cllr Phillip Proctor felt that there was little reference to the government’s zero carbon initiative for new homes with no electric car charging point provision either.

Redrow has included an area of open and sloping green space with a viewing point and a pond in the bottom corner, furthest away from the main road. Although this was initially welcomed, councillors soon moved to question whether the Town Council would end up having to maintain this area of grass and meadow-like space.

Landscaping will screen the site from the A350 and woodland planting, with holly and hawthorn hedges, would prevent the housing from being visible from the Blackmore Vale. But Cllr Roy Mitchell was concerned that the site would feel physically cut off. “As a development of 170 houses, it’s actually self-contained and has virtually no connection with the town. We are really concerned about the lack of a safe walking route to school. It means crossing the A350 and there is no safe point to do that. We insist that at pelican crossing is installed somewhere near Tollgate Park or Homefield to allow a safe route for people to get to school, the bus stop, work, the post office or shops. Otherwise this 170 house development will just be isolated – by itself.”

Not everyone drives and Cllr Proctor felt the site could be the gateway for a cycle path down to Motcombe. He wanted this idea to be considered.

Shaftesbury town councillors will now request a meeting to discuss their list of concerns with the planners at North Dorset District Council, the authority that will have the final say on Littledown. Nigel Wheeler said he was pleased that the councillors had addressed his concerns. “I have no objection with the way that the council are dealing with things,” he said. But he’s not so hopeful that the District Council will be so understanding. “North Dorset is not really into Shaftesbury. They have bigger areas that they think about.”