UP to £2 million of taxpayers’ cash may have to be spent on Dorchester's controversial Charles Street development if it is to go ahead.

West Dorset District Council faces the stark choice of sticking with the current scheme, which it admits is not viable in the current economic climate, or amending the details of phase two of the development at considerable cost.

The amended scheme proposed by developers’ Simons would see the planned hotel scrapped in favour of 24 apartments and the basement car park axed while a single-deck facility was built on the Fairfield market site instead.

The report warns if the council does not take action the two anchor tenants lined up for the scheme, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, could withdraw.

The report also recommends that preparatory works costing up to £2 million are funded by the council. This includes relocating Dorchester Family Church from Acland Road to a new home in Trinity Street.

And despite calls for wider public involvement, the district council will not hold a public consultation before the decision is made.Instead, plans will be put on display at a venue to be confirmed, with staff on hand to answer questions.

In a report, council officers said that no public funds would be needed if the current development is supported by councillors, but this may lead to the loss of businesses who have already signed up to the scheme.

The report said: “The council has the choice of either waiting for the economy to improve, or accepting that changes be made to the scheme to achieve viability.

“Waiting for the economy to improve could lead to the loss of key anchor tenants and it is therefore suggested that accepting changes to the scheme is the best way of achieving a development and securing over 600 jobs.”

The £2million would come from the corporate priorities reserve fund, it is suggested.
Within the changes, the district council have also been asked to agree to retain short stay parking at Wollaston Fields for 25 years.
Councillors will discuss the options at a meeting of the executive committee on Tuesday. (oct 9)