Campaigners against further housing development north of Dorchester are renewing their campaign.

Protesters against the district council’s ‘preferred’ status for the proposal used Thursday’s council meeting to ask if land being proposed at Upper Woodsford would be better suited to meet the area’s housing need.

Kate Hebditch from the campaign group, STAND, asked if the site, close to Crossways, offered “less likelihood of damage to our environment, cultural landscape and tourist industry.”

Farm owners there have put forward a site which could accommodate an estimated 4,000 homes – slightly larger than the number being proposed for Dorchester North.

But council briefholder Ian Gardner said a study on the Woodsford site had concluded it was not suitable and would need considerable investment if it were to go ahead. He said the Dorchester site remained the main focus of district council attention to meet the bulk of West Dorset’s housing target.

He added there was nothing to stop the Upper Woodsford site owners making a submission to have their land included in the next Local Plan. He said the area was still short of the required five-year supply of building land the Government insisted on and also had to plan for growth up to and beyond the period of the next Local Plan which is designed to guide development in the area.

Dorchester Conservative Gerald Duke said he questioned how the Dorchester site could be the council’s preferred development area when all the Dorchester councillors were against it.

He suggested that the Upper Woodsford site would be a good choice because a lot of the land was ‘brownfield’ and not of prime agricultural or environmental importance: “Quite a lot of it looks like the surface of the moon,” he said.

Crossways councillor Nigel Bundy told the meeting he was not in favour of the Upper Woodsford development although others were.

He said his area currently had 680 planning permissions granted, but not built, and another 440 homes earmarked by Purbeck District Council on land close to Crossways.

“If anything ever needs to happen it comes into our area; local landowners are willing to give up, there are no Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and no Sites of Special Scientific Interest,” he said.

Dorchester residents are being targeted in a letter campaign by the town’s Liberal Democrats over the Dorchester North development.

They are calling on people to sign a petition against the inclusion of the site in the revised Local Plan saying that the proposed, of around 3,500 homes, would be twice the size of Poundbury adding to congestion and parking problems in Dorchester, as well as putting extra pressure on the NHS and schools.

“The proposal to build 3,500 homes is being put forward by the Conservative-run West Dorset District Council as a way to meet the Conservative Government’s target for our area to build 794 new houses a year.

“This is centrally driven and very little to do with local need,” says the letter which is signed by ward councillors.

It says it would prefer to see the council borrow money to fund genuinely affordable and for social rent.