COUNCILLORS are set to decide tomorrow whether to spend up to £2million of taxpayers’ money on the next phase of Dor-chester’s controversial Charles Street scheme.
With the build of West Dorset District Council’s new offices nearing completion, developers have gone back to the authority with an amended scheme for the phase two retail element of the scheme after claiming it was presently unviable in the current financial climate.
The new proposals include spending up to £2million of taxpayers’ money on preparatory works for the next phase of the development such as relocating the Acland Road Community Church to Trinity Street.
It also proposes amendments to the original scheme such as replacing the proposed hotel with apartments and, rather than having two floors of underground parking at the site, to have 305 spaces on one floor and a further 179 spaces on a single deck at the Fairfield Market car park. Despite calls from objectors to consult with the public before making a decision on the new proposals, members will be asked to vote on the issue at a full meeting of West Dorset District Council tomorrow afternoon.
Ahead of the meeting it has also been revealed that the relocation of the church will also see up to a dozen parking spaces lost in the Trinity Street car park.
A spokesman for the council said that the church would be relocated to the site of the current toilet block in Trinity Street and would result in the loss of between 10 and 12 parking spaces.
John Grantham, who has been campaigning for consultation on the proposals before a decision is made, said the loss of further parking spaces in Trinity Street would compound the ‘disastrous’ impact of the loss of hundreds of parking spaces at Charles Street during the building of the new council offices.
He said: “We’ve come to a complete cul-de-sac in terms of reason on this.
West Dorset District Council chief executive David Clarke said: “Councillors will decide this week whether or not works should go ahead to prepare the Charles Street site for development.
“The preparatory works would include relocating the Dorchester Comm-unity Church to a new home on Trinity Street, an area of town which has been allocated for improvement within the Local Plan.
“The toilets at Trinity Street will close, however they will be replaced by modern and centrally located facilities.”
Petition Now Has More Than 1,000
MORE than one thousand people have also signed a petition calling on the West Dorset District Council to engage in public consultation before a decision is made to spend £2million on the latest proposals.
Liberal Democrat councillors were out in Dorchester last Saturday and had local residents queuing to sign the petition.
Coun Andy Canning said: “Over 500 people signed our petition in just three hours. Local people are very angry about yet again being denied a say before a key decision affecting the town is taken. “Some people question whether it’s right to spend £2 million of public money supporting a shopping development. “Others told me how difficult it is now to find a parking space on a Saturday or Wednesday. “Many blame the loss of 220 car parking spaces where the new Council Offices have gone for the closure of so many shops in recent weeks. “Yet others are concerned about whether a town of this size can support new shops at the Brewery as well as on Charles Street. “But the one thing everyone is united about is that the District Council must speak with local residents and local businesses before taking a final decision.”
As well as the 500 signatures in person, 500 people have also signed the petition online at www.charlesstreetpetition.org.uk