Residents of The Maltings will be asked what they want the Town Council to do with the land on the eastern side of Mampitts Square.
On Tuesday night, newly-elected Shaftesbury Town councillor Peter Yeo accepted the role of leading a group that will decide how people are consulted on future plans for this space.
“I live on the eastern side of town, on the new development. Obviously, I’ve got an interest in what happens on my doorstep,” said Peter. “I want to make sure that what we end up with on that land, which has been given by Persimmon Homes to Shaftesbury Town Council, is something that is beneficial to the eastern side of town. There are all sorts of ideas that could happen there.”
The area discussed lies adjacent to the corner of Maple Road, Allen Road and Mampitts Lane and is currently fenced off with boards. “At the end of Mampitts Lane, near the Spar shop, you’ve got a green, grassed area which people enjoy at the moment. It would benefit from having some benches and litter bins,” said Peter. “Then you’ve got the trees where the children enjoy the swing. Beyond those trees is quite a big piece of land, which is overgrown, but there is money available to build something on it, landscape it or turn it into a park or a nature reserve. That is yet to be decided. We are going to do some sort of consultation,” he added.
A previous small-scale survey last autumn brought approximately 20 responses from the public. Town Clerk Claire Commons said that some residents had wanted the land designated ‘dog free’ while others suggested it could become a dog walking area. Other ideas included a nature trail, memorial garden and sensory garden. One local fancied a fountain. More active residents wanted a running or fitness trail.
Persimmon will ‘fill in the dips’ on the currently unused land before it is handed over to the Council, said Mrs Commons. A professional survey of the land, suggested by Cllr Phil Proctor, will be undertaken.
Claire said that the Neighbourhood Plan’s green infrastructure work had highlighted the importance of open spaces, “particularly on that side of town, where there is less green space than had been on the indicative master plan,” she said.
Developers of new estates are normally expected to make a payment towards community facilities, services or infrastructure. Cllr Yeo says there is money ringfenced for whatever the community wants here. ‘What they call ‘section 106’ money was agreed a long time ago for facilities and amenities in the eastern part of town,” Peter said.
There had been plans to build a community hall space at Cockrams on Coppice Street with this money, but this project was cancelled by Shaftesbury Town Council last year. Since then, the Maltings Residents Association had ‘started the ball rolling’ in pushing for a hall, allotments and play area on the new development, explained Karen Tippins.
Mrs Tippins spoke at the Council meeting on behalf of the association’s Chairman. He couldn’t attend the meeting. The group had written to the former North Dorset District Council and had ‘reached out’ to MP Simon Hoare for help in securing the facilities they expected.
Mrs Tippins said that residents were promised those resources by either their housing associations or when they bought their homes. Persimmon had paid a ‘substantial’ amount in section 106 money, she said. ‘In excess of £500,000’ had been collected and was being held by Dorset Council.
“It is imperative that the residents of East Shaftesbury are listened to and they do obtain their amenities, which are woefully lacking currently,” Mrs Tippins said. She added that the former North Dorset District Council’s Local Plan had made provision for an East Shaftesbury hall in one of its policies.
Mrs Tippins said that ‘alarm bells’ rang when the paperwork provided to councillors for this meeting made no reference to the Mampitts Residents Association’s call for a hall. Town Clerk Claire Commons explained that Cllr Peter Yeo had requested that the Mampitts Square land was debated ‘at the last minute’ on Thursday. Peter confirmed this. Staff were unable to prepare a detailed report with such short notice.
Later in the meeting, Mayor Tim Cook asked for clarification regarding the promises that Mrs Tippins had spoken of. He asked, “what has been promised, by whom and to whom?” Mrs Commons said that the Town Council had not made any commitment but she confirmed Mrs Tippins’ view that there was a widespread understanding and expectation of a ‘community hall, play area, car park and allotments’.
Claire also confirmed that section 106 money was ringfenced for community use, but not necessarily a hall. “We can put a community hall there, but we don’t have to,” she said. Claire advised the Mayor that she had ‘twice checked’ the contractual agreement with Dorset Council’s planning policy team.
Speaking after the meeting, Peter Yeo said that he wants a wide range of community groups to get involved with his consultation working party. “There’s already a Maltings Residents Association, there are Open Spaces and the Tree Group. All these people are very useful to have on board to give their experience and advice,” Peter said.
The meeting confirmed that up to £2,500 will be readily available to publicise the engagement and to canvas local opinion. “We will do some sort of consultation leaflet and letters through everybody’s door, maybe some sort of website too, ensuring that the people, particularly in the eastern side of town, are thoroughly consulted. This won’t just be through mail shots but with public meetings.” Peter said.
The Mayor, Tim Cook, believes that all Shaftesbury residents should have their say on the plans. “I think we should give slightly more weight to the residents in the eastern development, who will have to live with whatever we put in there. It is community land. It’s owned by the Town Council and it’s there for everybody in the community. So we should take input from everyone and come to a decision that doesn’t overly favour one group above another. We’re one town and we want everybody to feel that we are one town,” said Cllr Cook.
Tim cautioned that the Town Council should take its time with this process. “I’d rather take a lot longer to come to a decision, but know that we’ve come to the right decision,” Tim said.
Peter Yeo hopes that the public consultation can get underway, soon. “We’re not expecting it to legally become ours for another three months, if all goes well. So we want to get the work done. As soon as it becomes ours, we can start making plans for what we’re actually going to do with it and how to spend the section 106 money on getting things done,” Cllr Yeo explained.