CONTROVERSIAL plans to redevelop a trading estate could be determined in Bridport after campaigners called for the planning committee to meet in the town, rather than Dorchester.

Haywards and Co have submitted outline proposals to demolish part of St Michael's Trading Estate to make way for 95 new homes, as well as refurbishing commercial units.

Enterprise St Michael's, a society made up of more than 620 members, wants West Dorset District Council to determine the application in Bridport, rather than South Walks House in Dorchester, where the planning committee usually meets. The group has launched a petition, calling on the council to hold the meeting in the town.

A spokesman for the group said: "Given this level of concern, the planning committee discussion must be accessible to Bridport residents.

"There are several suitable, large venues in the town. It is vital that, this time, the meeting is held in Bridport, and we ask West Dorset District Council to commit to doing so."

Officers from the district council are currently "looking at potential venues in Bridport".

A suitable venue would need to be able to seat a large number of people, have microphones, a hearing loop, disabled access and car parking.

A council spokesman added: "So that the meeting can be run in the correct manner, a venue in Bridport would have to be able to provide the same facilities as the meeting room in South Walks House.

"Officers and members of the committee will therefore take a decision on whether a venue can be used in Bridport when we know when the committee meeting is to be held and the availability of any suitable venue identified."

Enterprise St Michael's has also criticised the timescale of the consultation process.

A spokesman for the group added: "We have been attempting to achieve an understanding with the owners through regular dialogue but we’re a little shocked that the application has been now submitted without any warning, giving people only a few days to understand the implications.

"We think it is essential to point out that these proposals are still very similar to previous ones and amount to a very damaging outlook for Bridport as a whole, and in so many ways. We urge all residents to register their views before the March 31 deadline."

Martin Ridley from Haywards, said the consultation period was "set in stone" by the council and that it was "absolutely untrue" that the application had been submitted without warning.

He added: "We have also attempted to engage with and meet Enterprise St Michael’s on a regular basis over the last 12 months.

"We met with them more formally last September as part of the pre-application planning process and they were aware at that time that our amended plans were well advanced and we took them through the plans in detail.

"Our scheme will give the local economy the shot in the arm that it so badly needs. Not only in terms of housing but in the provision of an enhanced environment, a much improved public realm, an estate that will be more attractive to visitors and potential tenants and a scheme that will balance the best of the old with the best of the new.”