DORCHESTER North campaigners have called on Dorset Council drop its ‘obsession’ with proposals for thousands of new homes north of the county town.

They say the authority should be looking at any alternatives, including brownfield sites it owns.

Kate Hebditch from the STAND group says it is about time the council stopped and listened to what local people are saying.

Another campaigner, Linda Poulsen, told councillors at a meeting on Thursday that it was remarkable that in the 2015 Local Plan the site was not considered suitable – but now the new council had managed to get £150,000 from the Government’s Garden Communities fund to progress the scheme for the benefit of developers.

Ms Hebditch, in a news release on Friday, called on all political parties to cut their links with developers to ensure housing is developed to meet real local need rather than to encourage political party donations.

“Why here? Why hasn’t funding been given to enable the council to explore other sites in Dorset? Garden villages are supposed to be sustainable … There may be other places that are more suitable, with transport links, such as Upper Woodsford. We urge Dorset Council to look at a range of sites, especially those on its own list of brownfield sites,” she said.

“We note that garden villages are intended to be “holistically planned, self-sustaining, and characterful” but how can a ‘village’ north of Dorchester fail to have a negative impact on the town’s already stretched services? And such a development would dramatically change Dorchester’s own character – which has already had to absorb the somewhat fanciful character of Poundbury.”

She says it is not too late to take the views of local residents into account: “We note that the community should have a ‘meaningful say’ in the development of Garden Villages, so we look forward to Dorset Council involving the people of Dorchester in a proper process of community engagement to establish a truly sustainable future for our town.”

Cabinet member for planning, Cllr David Walsh, said that the Inspector’s report into the 2015 Local Plan suggested that the council should identify land to meet long term development needs “at or in the vicinity of Dorchester”.

He told councillors at the full council meeting on Thursday evening: “There is more work to be done to test the area’s suitability for development, including for example, further work on the heritage implications and infrastructure requirements. The Garden Communities initiative will help to fund this more detailed work, and will also provide assistance and support in ensuring quality of development, infrastructure provision and delivery arrangements.”

He said that the grant was only available for larger sites and there were no other sites in the local plan consultation considered eligible for the grant funding.