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Councillors fight for affordable housing
TOWN councillors are refusing to give up their fight to see affordable housing included on the site of West District Council’s former offices at Stratton House.
Members of Dorchester Town Council’s planning and environment committee agreed to write to the district council to raise their concerns about the ‘piecemeal’ development of the Stratton House campus, which was sold off following the council’s office move last year, and stressed the need to provide affordable housing on the site itself.
They received a response from the district council outlining the various phases of development of the site and also stating that it was currently considering a submission from the developer to provide a financial contribution in lieu of off-site provision of affordable housing.
Members of the committee said that this would not be good enough and they wanted to see the district council insist that any affordable housing is provided on site as there was a genuine need for it in the town centre, where there were a limited amount of available sites.
Committee chairman Susie Hosford said: “Given Dorchester has nowhere to put affordable housing I am wondering what they would spend those contributions on.”
She added: “We are literally getting to the point where there is nowhere to spend it.”
Cllr Molly Rennie said that the only place where there was space to put affordable housing in the town was Poundbury, which was some way from the town centre.
She said: “The town centre is very appropriate for affordable housing.
“It would be a perfect site for smaller sized units.”
West Dorset District Council Leader Robert Gould said: “Negotiations with the developer behind the re-use of the Stratton House site on the issue of affordable housing are on-going. “Under its current policies West Dorset District Council seeks 35 per cent affordable housing on proposals for 15 or more homes, subject to the viability of the scheme.
“As a general rule we look to provide these homes on the application site, but may negotiate an agreed one-off contribution where this is not possible.”
The committee also stressed the importance of a proper masterplan or development framework for the Dorchester Prison site as well so that too could be used to provide more affordable housing in the town centre.
Cllr Gould said: “Events around the closure and subsequent marketing of the Dorchester Prison site have moved very quickly, meaning there is no development brief for this very important site.
“We are also aware of recent legal difficulties that have arisen elsewhere in the country when councils tried to prepare development briefs for sites that were not previously allocated in a local plan. “The district council is in active negotiations with the Ministry of Justice’s agents and providing appropriate advice on a number of planning issues.
“This will include the affordable housing requirements clearly set out in our adopted local plan.”