Bryanston Park Preservation Group

November 2012

Feedback on the Public Consultation drop in event on Thursday 1st November (The Parish Centre, Blandford Forum)

Trevor Warrick (North Dorset District Council Planning Manager), Planning Officer and Councillors were present at the Public Consultation to answer questions.

We have received a number of comments from people who attended the consultation drop in event on Thursday 1st November and the main comments and information received are summarised below, for your information:

Re: Alternative sites to the Crown Meadows:  Trevor Warrick did give some information – one visitor was told by him that the owner of the A350/A354 site wanted Planning Permission for development of houses on the site and that they had thought of plans for the Charlton Marshall bypass to join the A354, two miles past the Tesco roundabout towards Dorchester, thus addressing issues of traffic joining the bypass.  He said, therefore, that this site would now get Planning Permission but his Core Strategy wants the Crown Meadows developed first. Trevor Warrick also told the visitor that making part of this land available for informal countryside recreation reflects the aspirations in the currently adopted plan (see 10.13 New Plan).  However, the visitor commented that it did not as the current plan (BL7) stated that the Crown Meadows “should remain as open countryside and protected from encroaching development which would jeopardise their use as informal recreational areas”. 

Another visitor was told by Cllr David Walsh, in ‘Planner Speak’, that the reason why NDDC is considering only the Crown Meadows is that only the Crown Estate has provided a fully researched proposal (i.e. with plans drawn up, and traffic, flooding, insurance, environmental etc. assessments).  No other landowner has and NDDC can only consider properly presented and fully researched planning proposals. Just wanting planning permission is not enough. As a result he said that NDDC were legally required to make the Crown Meadows site the preferred option.  He also stated that the two questions on the questionnaire had been put forward by the Crown Estate and, again, for legal reasons had to be posed at the Public Consultation.

Comments by another visitor, who had a lengthy conversation with a Planning Officer at the consultation about other sites put forward, was told that the sites by Tesco and Pimperne were viable options.  In answer to questions about why the consultation questionnaire only focused on the Crown Meadows and not on these other sites, despite the 6000 signature petition, the Planning Officer said that it was because important new proposals had been put forward by the Crown Estate, i.e. the donating of land for public use and reduction of houses (this was always in the Crown Estate proposal anyway). On further questioning as to why proposals for other sites had not been made public, the Planning Officer said that they were not as satisfactory as the Crown Meadows one. The visitor asked him ‘why’ and if satisfaction surveys were publicly available, so that people could take a view before answering the questionnaire. He became a bit stuck on this and said that over the coming weekend  ‘Sustainability Assessments’ on the other sites would be on the North Dorset District Council website. The member of the public did point out that perhaps it would have been better for these assessments to be made public before producing the questionnaire referring only to the Crown Meadows.

Why Further Consultation and Petition of nearly 6000 signatures?  Another visitor asked why the Council was consulting yet again on this issue when the whole town was clearly against it.  Cllr. Walsh explained that the Crown Estate had put forward an offer to reduce the housing density and to provide a piece of amenity land for the town.  If the Council did not consult on this offer, the Crown Estate could appeal at the EIP on the grounds that the Council had not consulted. He further stated that it was important that people should give their views during the consultation period so that they could be taken into account. The draft plan was not fixed in stone and could be altered if thought necessary.

A further visitor asked a Planning Officer about the petition of 6000 signatures and why this was being ignored. He said that it was not being ignored but that it was forming part of the whole process and would, in addition to the questionnaire and letters being written, be taken into account when decisions were being made.

Traffic:  A visitor to the Consultation was told by a Planner (Ian Smith) that the question of traffic congestion was yet to be properly assessed. This seems to resonate with Blandford Town Council Minute 96.3 which states, in part, that a traffic module would be required to be produced in order for Dorset County Council Highways to provide a firm view, which is part of the planning process.

General Feedback Comments Received from the Public by volunteer members of the Bryanston Park Preservation Group (BPPG): 
On the whole, most people were unaware of the public consultation and were angry that Crown Meadows was still being focused on when they had made their views known previously by taking time to sign the Petition.

It is understood that about 300+ people visited the exhibition and that the overwhelming majority of residents/visitors rejected the proposal to build any housing on the Crown Meadows. A vast number of people said that they would prefer the houses to be built on the site opposite the Tesco Roundabout between the A350/A354.  The exhibition was confusing and wreathed in Planning Speak (Cllr. Walsh’s words). When asked by one visitor to the Consultation “What is a Sustainability Assessment?” he was unable to explain. It seemed to be the criterion applied to the Tesco site making it unsuitable for development.

The vast majority of visitors to the Consultation, that we spoke to, found questions 20 and 21 on the questionnaire at best confusing and at worst duplicitous! One visitor said he didn’t want development and asked Trevor Warrick how he should respond to question 20. If he ticked the ‘yes’ box it meant he wanted 150 houses, if he ticked the ‘no’ box it meant he wanted 200 houses?  Trevor Warrick appeared surprised by the question and it took him a while to suggest that I ticked the ‘no’ box and put in the comments box that I didn’t want any development!

Conclusion:    There is little doubt that, as far as Blandford is concerned, local people don’t want any houses on the Crown Meadows.

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