There was widespread anger after it was revealed up to £2million of taxpayers’ money could be used to fund preparatory work for the private development after questions were raised over its viability.
Protesters set up outside the council’s offices ahead of a meeting of the executive committee on Tuesday to voice their discontent and call for further consultation on the proposals.
Despite that, committee members voted in favour of the amended scheme and now leading Liberal Democrat councillor Ros Kayes has called on Conservative leader Robert Gould to resign ahead of a final vote on the proposal at full council on Thursday October 25.
She criticised the ‘lack of public consultation, lack of protection in the contract drawn up with developer Simons and poor financial planning throughout the various stages of development’.
As well as the council funding up to £2million of preparatory works, such as relocating the Dorchester Community Church, the proposed changes to the original scheme also include replacing some of the underground car parking with a new single deck facility at the Fairfield market site and replacing the planned hotel with apartments.
Coun Kayes said: “The council is basically going through a process of trying to normalise things that have actually gone quite catastrophically wrong and present things in such a away it look as though this is the next logical step, which of course it isn’t at all.
“It is nothing short of astounding and I think that Mr Gould needs to take responsibility for this.”
She added: “The leader of the council has a responsibility to protect public money and make sure it is being spent in a way that provides value for money to the council and that mean value to the council taxpayer of West Dorset.
“I think as an act of good faith to the people of West Dorset Mr Gould needs to hold up his hands and admit ‘I got it wrong’ and say ‘we are going to do things differently in the future’.
“The first step should be to step down as leader and let somebody else take over. People have lost faith and they are not going to have the wool pulled over their eyes.”
Gould Remains Defiant And Refuses To Respond
A DEFIANT Councillor Gould did not respond to Coun Kayes’ calls to resign.
He said he was encouraged by signs at the latest meeting that all political parties on the council wanted to see the Charles Street scheme move forward.
He said: “The fact is we had a very good meeting of the executive committee and the council has a clear choice.
“All members will be meeting and there will be a decision on October 25.”
Coun Gould, pictured, said the latest proposals offered a ‘great opportunity’ to move forward with the Charles Street scheme, which would bring major investment and an estimated 600 jobs to Dorchester.
He said: “The key thing is we have a great opportunity to bring this investment to Dorchester and that’s what members will have to consider.”
Coun Gould added that the facilitating works proposed would not be a handout to the developer but an investment that would improve the county town and add value to the site.