DORCHESTER residents have been checking out the latest plans for the town's long awaited Charles Street development.

Developers Simons are holding a public consultation event as they prepared to submit a revised planning application for the second phase of the scheme.

Mark Hawthorne, from Simons, said that many of the changes from the outline permission that the development has already been granted were minor and centre around remodelling shop sizes to suit the needs of retailers such as Marks and Spencer.

The revised scheme also no longer includes the proposed hotel and has more accommodation, with 67 apartments now included in the plans.

Mr Hawthorne said: “We have remodelled some of the shop sizes to fit some retailers' requirements.

“We have also changed the proposed hotel into residential and we had added some additional residential units into the block above Waitrose.

“It hasn't changed dramatically.”

The proposed scheme will also include 464 car parking spaces across two underground levels, something West Dorset District Council was keen to see after Simons had been looking at providing alternative parking provision off site and less actually underneath the development.

Mr Hawthorne said that the developers would also be looking very carefully at putting measures in place to mitigate any loss of parking during construction, adding that a car park management strategy would be a condition of any planning consent.

He added: “I suspect that's going to be the big challenge for the scheme.”

If the planning application is successful, Simons expects to start work next autumn and, following a two-and-a-half-year build period, the site would be opened in spring 2018.

Mr Hawthorne said many people visiting the exhibition had been positive about the plans and were glad that, after as much as 40 years of waiting for something to be built on the site, the development was finally looking like a reality.

He said: “Generally people have been positive.

“People have their concerns and I think there is a lot of reticence about whether or not it's actually going to come to fruition but mostly it's been positive.”

The completed scheme will bring an estimated 600 jobs to the county town, with an additional 250 created during the construction phase.

Kenneth Addison, who is secretary of the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce, was among those viewing the plans.

He said: “I think it's the best thing for the 21st century in Dorchester.

“I'm 100 per cent behind it and I think it will work well with Brewery Square.”

Town councillor David Taylor also went along to see the plans.

He said: “I like what they are doing and I'm for the development because it's the development of Dorchester.

“My concern is that it was a travesty last time when we lost the car parking and lost business and communication is the key as everybody must know what is going on.”