PROTESTERS are demanding public consultation on the Charles Street scheme in Dorchester.
They gathered as council leaders met to defend a bid to support the development with up to £2million of taxpayers’ money.
Opponents want the public to have their say on the controversial scheme and have launched a petition calling for full consultation before a decision is made.
West Dorset District Council’s executive committee considered a report that claimed phase two of the scheme was not viable in the current economic climate.
Members were warned that if the council does not support developer Simons, anchor stores Waitrose and Marks & Spencer could withdraw.
Chief executive David Clarke said: “The danger is these anchor tenants might get frustrated and walk away.”
The committee backed an option to fund preparatory works to enable Simons to move forward as well as amending the original scheme to make it more viable.
The amendments include replacing some of the underground parking with a single-deck facility on the Fairfield market site and replacing the proposed hotel with 24 apartments.
The preparatory works include relocating the Dorchester Community Church from Acland Road to a new building provided by the council on Trinity Street.
They also involve securing pedestrian access and landing rights through the Tudor and Hardye Arcades, securing other access rights including traffic regulation orders and securing rights of light legal costs.
Mr Clarke said: “This will deliver the council’s top priority in terms of the redevelopment of an important site.
“Importantly, it will also create not only 120 jobs during the construction phase but will bring 600 permanent jobs in the retail use of the site.”
The council’s member champion for environmental protection and assets Councillor Richard Jungius warned that if the scheme did not move forward, the consequences for the county town could be dire.
He said: “The one thing I’m convinced of is that if we don’t do this scheme Dorchester as a shopping centre will die.”
Coun Stella Jones addressed the committee to say she and fellow Dorchester members were in favour of regenerating the town centre site, but wanted to see a proper consultation process before a decision is made.
She said: “We must have a real dialogue with the public, it’s public money which is being spent.”
Members agreed to an amendment to a recommendation to display the details of the proposals to the public by extending the period they are on show from five to 10 days.
The executive committee’s recommendations will now go forward for a final decision at the full council meeting on October 25.
Opponents Launch Petition
PROTESTERS made their opposition to the latest developments scheme clear ahead of the meeting of the executive committee.
Opponents gathered outside the district council’s offices at Stratton House to voice their discontent at the proposal to spend significant amounts of public money on the scheme without proper consultation.
John Grantham said: “Consultation needs to be the most thorough going – every person in Dorchester and in West Dorset needs to be consulted.
“This is the biggest investment the district council has made in its 38-year history.”
After the meeting, district councillor Andy Canning launched an online petition calling on the authority to conduct a full consultation.
He said: “This is important as it is yet another big spending of public money on what should be a private sector development.
“It will also affect the centre of Dorchester for decades.”
To sign the petition visit charlesstreetpetition.org.uk/.