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Developers forced to renew Dorchester town centre plans
DEVELOPERS have been forced to renew their application for a Dorchester town centre shopping scheme after its initial planning permission elapsed.
Calls have now been made for Simons to go ‘back to the drawing board’ and reconsider plans for phase two of the £60m Charles Street town centre scheme.
Simons received outline permission for the second phase of the long awaited and controversial development back in September 2010.
However, although the first phase of the scheme involving the build of West Dorset District Council’s new offices and the Dorchester Library and Learning Centre was completed, work has not begun on the retail element of development that has long promised to bring millions of pounds worth of investment to the county town.
The original consent included a planning condition that stipulated applications for reserved matters, detailing the proposed scheme, must be submitted within three years.
Simons has now launched a bid to extend the original outline permission that will give it extra time to come up with a full application for the second phase.
Dorchester Town Crier and district councillor Alistair Chisholm said it was clear Simons was struggling to bring forward a retail based scheme on the site and called for the developer to think about coming up with an alternative scheme.
He said: “Clearly they have struggled to get sufficient anchor stores or sufficient other businesses interested.
“The demand for that sort of presence is considerably less than it was some years ago and I think perhaps we should go back to the drawing board and say ‘what can we do with that very important site right in the heart of the town?’”
Mr Chisholm said one aspect that Simons could look at was to include more affordable housing, which was clearly something there was demand for in the area.
He also suggested that a fresh look at the plans would give the company an opportunity to consider making more of the town’s history and pre-history present underneath the site.
Leader of West Dorset District Council Robert Gould said: “We have received an application from Simons for the renewal of outline planning permission for the Charles Street Phase 2 development.
“The application is currently being registered and will be available on the council’s website shortly. Residents will then be able to submit their comments about the application to the district council either by post or using the dorsetforyou.com planning portal at any time during the consultation process.”
Anyone wishing to comment on the application has 21 days in which to comment and the matter will go back before the council’s development control committee for a decision.
Senior development director at Simons Graeme Cosgrove conceded that the financial climate had made bringing forward the retail element of the scheme had been 'challenging' but insisted Simons remained committed to the project.
He said: “The reason for submitting this application is to simply renew the existing planning approval granted in 2010.
“We have been working hard to bring forward our new retail and residential development proposals on Charles Street.
“This has taken longer than we anticipated as a consequence of the challenging economic climate.
“We remain committed to delivering the project and are in negotiations with a number of well known high street retailerskeen to take space within the scheme.”
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