PLANS to build 1,000 homes on the edge of Dorchester have met with strong opposition at a public event in the town.

Literary enthusiasts say the proposal to earmark land between the A352 Broadmayne road and the A35 Dorchester bypass for development would destroy a crucial part of the county’s cultural landscape.

The area lies between Thomas Hardy’s former home at Max Gate and poet William Barnes’ rectory at Winterborne Came.

A drop-in session at West Dorset District Council’s offices in Dorchester to discuss the plans attracted a strong turnout with many voicing their opposition to the proposals.

Author Minette Waters, who lives near Dorchester at Whitcombe, was among those to raise concerns.

She said: “I do feel strongly; in one respect it won’t directly affect us because we are the next valley along but it is going to dramatically affect that whole approach to Dorchester.

“My major anger is the fact that here in Dorchester we have two amazing attractions in a cultural way in the form of Thomas Hardy and William Barnes.

“Dorset advertises Thomas Hardy particularly by referring to the area as Hardy country.

“They have already effectively destroyed the approach to Max Gate and now they want to stick something half the size of Poundbury in front of it – his house will disappear.”

Mrs Waters added: “It upsets me that they want to do away with the legacy of these two greats who lived within a mile of each other for 1,000 homes, 50 per cent of which will probably be second homes in five years.

“Dorchester is supposed to build on one of its best sites in order to accommodate people from London who want to treat Dorset as their playground.”

If the site is included in the local plan for West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland it would be earmarked for development after Poundbury construction is completed, around 2021.

Chairman of the William Barnes Society Dr Alan Chedzoy said: “The site they’re consulting about is probably the most important cultural site in the county.

“People come from all over the world to visit Hardy and Barnes country and if the planners are not interested in planning matters they jolly well should be interested in the tourist element.

“To develop that site would be the most short-sighted application I have ever come across.”

Thomas Hardy Society secretary Mike Nixon added: “The literary landscape will be lost forever, that’s our biggest concern.

“The tourism is crucial for Dorchester, it’s a very foolish application.”

All views to be counted

SPATIAL and community planning manager for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and West Dorset District Council Hilary Jordan said there were several stages still to go through before the Dorchester site is included in the local plan.

She said the site was originally not included in the draft plan but when consultation was carried out on that last summer, opposition to sites at Sherborne, Beaminster and Crossways forced the council to look for an alternative site near Dorchester.

She also said they were just consulting on the latest proposal and all views on the process will be taken into account.