A councillor has warned that Dorchester will become a ‘concrete jungle’ if its green spaces are given up for new housing developments.

Magna Housing Association has shown interest in building on five play areas and open spaces around the town, an issue which sparked a heated debate during a meeting of Dorchester Town Council’s full council.

Dozens of concerned residents packed into the Corn Exchange last Tuesday to hear councillors’ views.

Town and district councillor Gerald Duke has publicly opposed the idea of building on Elizabeth Place playing field, one of the sites under Magna’s ownership. It is covered by a restrictive covenant between the housing association and West Dorset District Council (WDDC), which states the land should only be used for recreational purposes.

Although Magna have not yet submitted any formal plans, Cllr Duke submitted a motion urging the town council not to take action which could see the covenant lifted.

Cllr Kate Rice, who seconded Cllr Duke’s motion, said: “I agree about having land for children to play on.

“It’s not just about play areas, it’s about the green lungs of the area. If we have too many buildings, we’ll lose the community and it will just become a concrete jungle.”

Ian Murray, who lives on Elizabeth Place, also spoke out at the meeting. He said: “The real need in this town is affordable housing for young people in their 20s and 30s, we all agree with that.

“But we live in such a rural area, I don’t understand why we’re giving up a green space to create housing when we’ve got so much land around here.”

Naomi Patterson is campaigning against building on the five Dorchester parks which include Elizabeth Place, Sandringham Annex, Fortress Green, Mellstock Avenue play area and Poundbury Crescent play area.

She said her son George, who is disabled, relies on the park as somewhere he can safely play after being housebound a lot of the time.

However, some members hit back at Cllr Duke’s motion, arguing that Magna haven’t yet had the chance to hold a public consultation or submit formal plans.

The town council is due to consult with Magna and the public over the benefits and drawbacks of any potential development on all five sites.

Cllr Trevor Jones said: “I think we should calm down, it’s early doors. There’s a whole planning process to go through. We owe it to the people who don’t have houses to do the best we can for them.

“There’s some 2,000 people on the housing waiting list for west Dorset, a third of whom want to live in Dorchester. All the targets for supplying them with housing have been missed, and missed by a mile. I’m in favour of hearing what people have to say.”

Cllr Richard Biggs agreed, saying: “We want to save green areas and play areas but we need to be able to build properties for a low cost so that people can live in them. How can we make any decisions at this moment in time?”

Cllr Duke’s motion was rejected at seven votes against to six votes for.