Shaftesbury Cattle Market closed on Thursday. The site’s long-term future is still under discussion, but two protestors were clear about what they want to happen immediately. They want the gate unlocked so cars can park there once again.
Soon after North Dorset District Council announced the sale of the Cattle Market, which they lease to Southern Counties Auctioneers, public vehicular access was blocked. But on Thursday lunchtime, Tim Edwyn Jones and Chamber of Commerce Chairman, David Perry, were standing at the site entrance bearing placards stating ‘We Need Parking Now.’
David is furious at the loss of 200 parking spaces. “It’s used by tourists, visitors and people who work in the town as well as people shopping in the town when Tesco car park is full. It’s the only car park in the town where you can park for more than four hours,” said David.
Tim believes that cars should be allowed back onto the site now, as it may be a while before the developers move in. “There seems to be nothing effective happening to stop this car park being possibly vacant for a year or two, while there may be a planning process and a planning appeal,” said Tim. “That would be a travesty, because the community needs parking and it has always had this right. The town used to own the site until the mid 1970s. Community interest is not safeguarded and not considered beyond commercial interests.”
The town bought the land in 1949 for Shaftesbury. North Dorset District Council inherited the asset when local government reorganised in 1974. During Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, members of the public urged councillors not to sign a letter from the auctioneer’s solicitors giving ‘notice to quit’ the car park. Some locals argued signing the letter would waive any claim to parking rights on the site.
Councillors decided not to sign the letter. “They were hogtied. They couldn’t sign the letter because that would just basically give up any right that we ever had. We should never have had the letter in the first place,” said David.
The Town Council has briefly discussed making free parking part of a ‘section 106’ agreement with Lidl, if they do build a store on the Cattle Market. Planners would negotiate that ‘benefit’ as part of the site permission. But David says the parking must be reinstated now, or the Council’s position may be weaker in future negotiations
“If and when the supermarket does get built here, we desperately need to have some permanent 24-hour parking, or at least eight hour parking for the traders in town and for tourists who want to stay for more than four hours,” said David. “We can hardly argue for free parking if we don’t already have it. Once we’ve lost it very difficult to argue that we want it back.”
And Tim believes a section 106 agreement will take too long. “A section 106 agreement may not actually be finalised for six months, a year, two years, or it may not happen at all. I think it is very important that there is no limbo situation where this facility lies vacant while the owners refuse to engage with it. It’s in their power to come up with some temporary arrangement that puts this back in use and still safeguards their legal interest. And they really need to put their minds to that,” said Tim.
David added, “200 car parking spaces, which the town desperately need, are just going to be wasted – the gates locked on a great big space. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. We need someone to see common sense and open the damn car park so we can use it!”
ThisIsAlfred.com put Tim and David’s request to allow cars on the site to both North Dorset District Council’s press office and Southern Counties Auctioneers on Thursday afternoon. We’ve not had a reply yet.