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Clarity sought on controversial Dorchester development
CALLS have been made for further clarity on the future of a controversial development in Dorch-ester.
Members of the public and businesses have reacted with anger at the news that phase two of the Charles Street scheme could cost taxpayers up to £2million if it is to move forward.
Changes will have to be made, including substituting the planned hotel for apartments, and scrapping underground parking in favour of a deck of parking at Fairfield market site.
West Dorset District Council will decide at a meeting on Tuesday whether to invest the cash to fund preparatory work so the scheme can go ahead, or to oppose changes and risk losing anchor tenants Waitrose and Marks and Spencer.
Phil Gordon, of the Dorchester Business Improvement District (BID), said he has yet to hear feedback from members on what they think of the scheme.
He said: “Speaking as an individual, I do not think we should dive off the deep end without establishing the facts.
“There are aspects of the report that are open to interpretation and the council needs to make a clear statement and say exactly what they are and are not proposing.”
He added that having apartments instead of a hotel might be a ‘sensible’ idea.
“We have at least one hotel opening already in Brewery Square, so that seems to me to be a sensible thing to change.
“But the BID would find it impossible to support the development going ahead if there was to be absolutely no underground parking.
“I would be surprised if the two anchor businesses would be keen to go forward if there was to be no underground parking at the site.”
Dorchester Civic Society chairman Alan Rowley said the fact the scheme is not viable ‘did not come as a surprise’.
He said: “We continue to support the development, and wish to see the site redeveloped for retail purposes. But any changes should not come at any price.
“The town and the council need to weigh up the implications of these changes.”
Meanwhile, further calls were also made for a public consultation before any decision is made.
A council report which was published on Wednesday stated that a consultation was not considered to be appropriate because the site already has planning permission, and the need to maintain certainty for the developers and the anchor tenants. Revised plans would be displayed in the town so people can view them and ask questions.
Town councillor David Taylor said: “This is costing the taxpayer £2million.
“It is us who are paying for this fiasco to carry on.
“We are just not being consulted about it at all.”
The district council declined to comment further.
Closest yet to success
IN a statement made on Wednesday, West Dorset District Council services manager Steve Woollard said: “The council has worked hard to achieve a town centre development on the Charles Street site for some 30 years.
“The current proposals which have planning permission are the closest that has been achieved to success.
“Waiting for the economy to improve could lead to the loss of key anchor tenants and it is therefore suggested that the option of accepting changes to the scheme is the best way of achieving a development and securing more than 600 jobs. However, there are risks in this approach which councillors need to bear in mind when they make a decision.”