AN INDEPDENT assessment has judged that the proposed redevelopment of Dorchester's former prison site will not be viable if it includes affordable housing.

The judgement comes as a blow to housing campaigners in the county town, who have been keen to see affordable housing included as part of the major town centre development and say they are "disgusted" and "disappointed" at the prospect of none being provided.

City and Country Ltd has put in a bid for 190 homes at the site and normally, under a policy in West Dorset District Council's Local Plan, developers are required to build 35 per cent of units as affordable housing.

However, this policy is subject a test of financial viability, which is a governmental regulation designed to ensure that the affordable housing requirement does not render a development financially unviable.

The council says it has has taken great care that this process has been rigorously conducted and assessors have concluded that, due to the high costs associated with developing the congested brown field site in a conservation area, the scheme cannot financially support any affordable housing.

Councillor Tim Yarker, housing portfolio holder for West Dorset District Council, stated: "I know that both Dorchester Town Council and many residents will share my deep disappointment with this outcome.

"However I am satisfied that the assessment has been meticulously conducted, and when completed, the scheme will deliver much needed open market housing to the town centre and secure a long-term future for this heritage asset within the town’s conservation area.

"It is important that we focus on securing the future of the prison and avoid having a derelict site.

"The council will continue to work hard to bring other much-needed affordable housing schemes forward."

Barry Thompson, from the Dorchester Labour Party, has made repeated calls for affordable housing to be included as part of the prison development scheme.

He said: "This is just not on, they have got to have affordable housing there.

"We might keep fighting them, they can't be allowed to get away with it.

"I'm absolutely disgusted."

Dorchester Town Council has also called for affordable housing to be included on the site.

Chairman of the town council's planning and environment committee Susie Hosford said: "This is an extremely disappointing outcome that Dorchester will not be getting much needed affordable housing.

"Affordable housing is a key priority for the town council."

Town and district councillor David Taylor said: "I am very disappointed at this result, we were expecting at least some affordable housing so that young people and new families can live and work in Dorchester, keeping the town available for all so it lives on for future generations."