A YOUNGER population, smaller homes and more parking – councillors have set out their vision for the future of Dorchester.

Following a series of meetings with councillors, town clerk Adrian Stuart produced a document outlining how the county town should develop in the years to come.

Priorities include working towards a more balanced population in terms of age, a more varied housing mix, a more diverse economy and better infrastructure relating to roads and parking.

Respecting but taking advantage of Dorchester’s heritage and environment was also seen as a key area.

Presenting the report to councillors at a town council policy meeting at the Corn Exchange, Mr Stuart said: “One of the strong things that came out is the need to have a less old population.

“There was a desire among councillors to at least recognise that and, where possible, to stimulate ideas which might create a more balanced society in the future.”

Figures show that 23.1 per cent of people in Dorchester are aged over 65, more than six per cent above the national average.

He added: “Dorchester has suffered from the larger three or four-bed house syndrome in the past and we should look at building priorities that may attract more young people.

“In local economy terms we are very strong, but we should not be relying on the public sector for the future.”

Superfast broadband will bring new opportunities for the county town, including allowing workers to be more flexible and giving them the choice of working in Dorchester rather than big cities, Mr Stuart added.

“Even our existing economic success is bringing problems in terms of traffic and parking, and one of the key things is that we have to do something about that.”

Councillors at the meeting were broadly supportive of the document and said it represented the issues which came up at the meetings.

Cllr Tim Harries said: “I’ve enjoyed the whole process, it has been a breath of fresh air.”

Vice chair Gareth Jones said: “I would like to congratulate Adrian on having run some excellent strategy sessions.

“This is a really good opportunity for us all to put ideas on the table and bring forward what we thought.”

The document will now go before a meeting of the full council and, if approved, will be taken to the community and other interested parties for more discussion and consultation.

Councillors will have a choice of how to approach the plan to put it into action, either by agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding or by adopting a Neighbourhood Plan.

Mr Stuart said: “We need to see if this is something the public recognises as Dorchester’s needs.”

Dorchester: The facts and figures

THE population as of 2012 is 19,100 people living in around 9,400 dwellings.

There are 17,500 jobs, of which 56 per cent are in the public sector, 17 per cent in retail, food and accommodation and 18 per cent in professional and services.

More than half of the jobs in the town are carried out by workers who come from outside Dorchester.

Unemployment stands at one per cent and just 19 people are affected by long-term unemployment.

While Dorchester is relatively wealthy, two wards – Monmouth Road and Manor Park – are among the most ten deprived wards in Dorset.

About 16 per cent of residents receive housing and/or council tax benefit.

Focus on smaller properties

THE vision for Dorchester sets out the following priorities:

A more diverse economy. Work with the developers of Brewery Square, pictured above, and Poundbury to create a retail environment in keeping with Dorchester’s heritage and environment, and work with businesses to attract knowledge-based small firms and heritage-based tourism.

A more varied housing mix. Help bring forward new sites for development within the bypass boundary, with a focus on one and two-bed properties including flats, and ask the district council to reduce the number of properties not in use.

Traffic and highways. Create an infrastructure capable of meeting the demands of residents, workers and visitors, encourage larger employers to provide adequate parking for employees and work with the district council and businesses to provide parking for shoppers and tourists.

Support all sectors of the community. Support initiatives to record all community groups in Dorchester and use the town council’s buildings to encourage new groups to fill any perceived gaps in the opportunities on offer.

Respect and take advantage of Dorchester’s heritage and environment. Discuss a shared tourism vision with interested partners, ensure that the Charles Street development complements the town’s heritage and find out what other communities want when visiting the town.