Shaftesbury Town councillors have registered a list of objections to a developer’s plans to build additional homes on the new Littledown estate. Alfred’s Keri Jones reports from Tuesday’s planning meeting.
Redrow was granted permission to build 170 houses alongside the A350 last June. They now want to knock down a bungalow, Greatfield, so they can build nine extra houses where it stands. This site is on the left-hand side of the road as you drive away from Shaftesbury, just before the access to the new estate and Wincombe Business Park. There are plans to build a roundabout here.
Planning meeting chairman John Lewer read a letter of objection from a resident of nearby Tollgate Park at the council meeting. “They were concerned about road safety because of the nine houses that are proposed, four of them facing directly onto the A350, and they were concerned this would make a busy road much more dangerous. I had come to the same conclusion myself when I looked at the plans. I didn’t take any convincing. It turns out the rest of the committee felt the same,” explained Cllr Lewer, who believes Redrow should rework their plans.
“We’ve rejected the plan in its present form with the suggestion that it ought to allow all nine houses or, probably less than nine, to be accessed from within the estate,” continued John. “It makes no sense for four houses to have their access onto a busy road within 100 yards of the actual roundabout.”
Councillors also voiced their unease over the density of this new nine home add-on development. “It feels like they’re just trying to squeeze as much money as they can out of a fairly small plot of land,” commented Cllr Alex Chase. He feels that the tightly packed homes would not sit well against the existing houses in the Littledown area.
“If you look at the houses on the left-hand side, they are primarily large houses and they’re set back from the road. To stick four significantly smaller houses on that space would be quite jarring, I think,” he added.
“They need to be drawn back from the road for the benefit of the people living in them because it is a busy road and they will suffer from traffic noise,” added Cllr Lewer.
During the meeting, Charlotte MacKay of Shaftesbury Civic Society urged Town councillors to push for a pedestrian crossing. “Unless they do something about it, somebody will be killed on those roads. There’s no doubt about it,” said Mrs Mackay. “Children are crossing who have to get to school. Some of the pavement from there into town is very narrow and not safe. I do think the crossing is what we have to focus on. I just think they need to be responsible and they should try to extract some money from Redrow to pay for it,” Charlotte explained.
Town councillors agreed and Dorset Council will be asked for a pedestrian crossing.
Eleven trees and twenty-one small trees and shrubs will be removed to make way for these nine homes. Although the company say they will plant more, Cllr Lewer was not satisfied because of the site’s proximity to the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. “Part of the site is in an AONB. I think treating trees with contempt like this is not acceptable,” said John.
The meeting heard that it may be possible to make the developers pay towards the Town Council’s projects to address climate change and fund green and open spaces. Building companies are expected to make payments to offset the impact their new estates have on infrastructure.
Last March, Redrow’s Dave Lee told a public meeting that the former North Dorset District Council would collect £1million from this Littledown development, through this ‘section 106’ clause, which could be spent on education anywhere across the local education authority area. And last night’s meeting heard that the Abbey View Medical Practice would also receive a payment from Redrow if these house-building plans are approved.
Town Clerk Claire Commons explained that some councils, like Milton Keynes, has received cash for climate emergency mitigation projects. “It looks like councils can require developers to pay into a carbon offset fund for carbon emissions of all new homes that are to be built,” she said. The hope is that, should any new homes be built in the future, contributions from those developers could go towards the Town Council’s climate emergency initiatives.
“That’s the hope but it’s very early days in researching this and we need to get Dorset Council on board as well,” said Claire. “It is a possibility that we are slightly too late for this development. If they have already drawn up the contracts, those are written and we can do nothing about it. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have a conversation with Dorset Council and see if there’s any more manoeuvrability in this.”
The Town Council has voiced strong opposition to these nine extra homes. They’ve objected because they are concerned about the density of the development, the loss of green infrastructure, challenges with parking, the need for a pedestrian crossing and the impact of more homes on the town’s infrastructure. The speed of traffic on the A350 and concerns over safe vehicle access for four of the homes are significant concerns.
Cllr Lewer has insisted that the proposal is determined by Dorset Council councillors in a public planning meeting, rather than allowing Dorset Council staff to make the decision privately.
John’s uncertain whether Shaftesbury’s concerns will change much. “I gather that the Highways Authority is already satisfied that the road is safe. Tonight, we very clearly disagreed. The Civic Society disagreed, and I think the majority of people who live anywhere near Grosvenor Road will disagree. To have those four houses going separately onto the road will make a nightmare for everybody concerned,” warned Cllr Lewer.