Residents say they have been left ‘speechless’ by a housing association’s plans to sell off land which could be used for affordable housing in West Dorset.

The Echo has learned that Magna is not planning to build any new properties for the ‘forseeable’ future and is therefore looking to sell off stock.

But challengers to the decision will address Magna’s board at the association’s AGM, claiming it is ‘against its charitable obligation’ to sell off the land.

Some of the earmarked areas were handed over to Magna when West Dorset District Council transferred its housing responsibilities, it is believed.

It is also believed the planned sell-off involves 48 sites across West Dorset, although Magna has not confirmed this.

Cllr Ros Kayes, a housing spokesman for the opposition group on West Dorset District Council, said: “I was gobsmacked when I heard about this.

“Residents have come to me for help and said they have brought it up with the board again and again and feel they just haven’t been listened to.

“The danger is that this land could be sold to private developers, and then the potential for affordable housing is lost forever.

“It’s well-known that we have a huge problem with a shortage of social housing in West Dorset.”

She added: “In December 2013 there were 1,406 people in need of one bedroom accommodation, 612 families requiring two bedroom homes, 234 requiring three bedoom properties and a total of 2,291 families on the register in all. West Dorset has one of the lowest building rates for affordable homes – with a longstanding requirement to build over 400 properties a year, which it has never yet come close to reaching.”

Cllr Kayes added that the board has a ‘responsibility’ to ensure any land sold goes to another association, so that social housing can be built.

One resident and shareholder, Dennis Tuffin, said: “To sell off land when there is a need of properties for rent to an increasing population and future generations is a wrong decision for the Magna Housing Group Board to have made and I believe that the Residents’ Panel should be allowed to challenge the board’s decision as we were not consulted, on behalf of the tenants, or able to voice our disapproval of this decision to dispose of the land.”

Magna has said residents are welcome to address the board at the next meeting.

Graham Colls, Magna group chief executive, said: “Magna owns a number of pieces of land, some of which it does not expect to be able to develop in the foreseeable future. Magna has to get the best out of its assets. “Magna is therefore reviewing what it ought to do with these pieces of land. “Clearly, sale of one or more is one option.

“There are others. Magna has not decided to sell any land, though it may in future.”