DORCHESTER Town Council and the town’s Civic Society have produced a blueprint that they hope will guide development at the county town’s former prison site.

The prison closed its doors in October last year and is currently up for sale.

The town council and Civic Society have recognised the importance of the town centre site and have been keen to produce something that will shape what development takes place on the site.

They have joined forces to produce a position statement and future uses document for the site and hope that potential bidders, local planning authorities and the Ministry of Justice will take notice of the contents when any development is brought forward on the site.

The two bodies state that they prefer a mixed-use residential-led development at the former Victorian prison claiming a range of uses will ‘increase footfall through the site and promote vitality’.

They have also emphasised the need for good quality design and that certain ‘landmark assets’ such as the 18th century stone gatehouse should be preserved.

The document states: “This is a unique opportunity for creative and positive planning within the town, with the aim of ensuring that a comprehensively planned and implemented scheme makes a meaningful contribution towards providing an attractive and lively space.

“This will result in any scheme creating a distinct sense of place within Dorchester and would support the sustainability and other objectives and aspirations of the town council and local community.”

The council and Civic Society say they would welcome future discussions with those involved in disposing of the site on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and any prospective purchasers or developers of the site in the future.

The document will be discussed at a meeting of Dorchester Town Council’s planning and environment committee on Monday before it goes to full council on September 23 for final approval.

Chairman of the Dorchester Civic Society Alan Rowley said that his group had been ‘disappointed’ that West Dorset District Council had not produced a masterplan guiding development on the site and hoped the document would go some way to making up for that.

He said: “The Civic Society has been taking the line right from the announcement the prison was going to close that there should be a development framework for the site that should include a requirement for a masterplan as this is such a unique opportunity.

“The society is delighted to have been able to work closely with the town council to produce this – what we are trying to do is hopefully provide a baseline for potential bidders so they have a sense of what the expectations are for the site from the town council and the Civic Society.”