Planning Inspector Rejects Developer’s Appeal Over Housing Estate On Shaftesbury Slopes

A new estate of ‘up to 23 houses’ will not be built on Shaftesbury’s lower slopes near Enmore Green.

Back in May, Dorset councillors overturned their Planning Officer’s recommendation and rejected this application to build homes on a triangle of land between the Shaftesbury to Gillingham road. The developer appealed to the Planning Inspectorate in an attempt to overturn that decision. But Nylo Homes’ appeal has been unsuccessful.

Inspector David Wyborn felt that, ‘the incursion of residential development into open and attractive countryside on this part of the northern scarp slope of Shaftesbury would be particularly harmful.’

In reaching his conclusion, Mr Wyborn also considered a Grade II listed drinking trough and conduit head that lies alongside the B3081. He accepted that the structure would not be directly affected by the housing development, but he said that the surroundings would become ‘more suburban’ and the trough’s significance would be harmed by the development.

The conduit head

The inspector’s decision means that the estate won’t be built. This is news that will please over 200 people who wrote to Dorset Council planners to voice their opposition to this application. Shaftesbury Town and Motcombe Parish Councils also opposed the plan.

The inspectors’ verdict is the end of a long campaign by Shaftesbury Civic Society members Charlotte and Nicholas Mackay against the proposal to build on this greenfield land which they use to keep sheep on. The couple have fought against the plans since August 2018 when they started gathering petition signatures outside the Town Hall as part of their ‘Save Shaftesbury – Save Our Saxon Town’ campaign.

“We realised that the slopes were not as protected as we thought they were and that’s why we were so passionate about starting a campaign to save our hilltop town,” said Charlotte.

The inspector’s ruling pleases Charlotte, but she had hoped that the strong opposition to developing this land would have been referred to in the inspector’s report. “We were hoping that the Planning Inspector would take the view of Shaftesbury Town Council and the unanimous decision of Dorset Council on board as well. They would have found it very hard to undermine all of those people, plus the people of Shaftesbury,” she said.

Charlotte and Nicholas MacKay

Charlotte thinks the judgement shows that a development of this size on this site is not sustainable here. “The rural, agricultural feel of the area, that would have been lost forever,” she said. But she doesn’t think that campaigners who want to prevent the development of this triangle of land are out of the woods, yet. “I think we will all feel that this is over if we ever have an opportunity to buy that bit of land, and then we feel that we can secure it by planting loads of trees on it.”

Charlotte believes that would be the best outcome for the parcel of land and the environment. “It was offered to us a few years ago but unfortunately at the time, we could not afford it. It was offered at a very high price. We are hoping that, as we are a few years older and in a slightly better position, that if it is offered to us at an affordable price then we intend to buy it and protect it forever,” Charlotte explained.

I asked Charlotte what she will do if the land isn’t offered for sale or the price isn’t acceptable to her. “Well then there’s nothing we can do,” she replied. “The farmer will, presumably, just sit on it. But it’s not doing anything. We put our sheep on it and paid rent for it but it’s not doing anything and it’s of no benefit to him to keep it if it’s never going to be built on.”

Alfred contacted developer Nylo Homes and offered them a chance to comment. We’ve not heard back from them, but if we do we will add their words at the end of this article.