CHANGES has been agreed to a former youth service office in North Square, Dorchester.

It will allow for the Routes office building, on the corner of North Square and Colliton Street, to be altered to create two flats, with the ground floor continuing in use for a shop or office.

The Routes office has been empty for more than two years after the advice and information service for young people moved out after funding cuts following more than 20 years of service.

Developers, LAI Property Ltd, say the changes will protect the character of the 19thC building within the town centre conservation area.

The area was once a medieval marketplace called ‘the Bull Stake’ which grew around the gate to the castle, close to the current prison gate. The market was also on the approach to a Franciscan Friary which was in existence by the 1260s and stood at the nearby junction of Friary Hill and Orchard Street.

The approved planning application allows changes to the building to create two one-bed flats. A previous application was withdrawn after criticism by the council’s conservation officer.

The new application says that those comments have been taken on board and only minor changes are now being proposed to the exterior of the building with existing internal features being retained.

Said an agent’s report: “It is considered that the proposed works would safeguard the special historic and architectural interest of 5 North Square, Dorchester, and the special character and appearance of Dorchester Conservation Area and would be consistent with both national and local planning policies.”


Routes offered information, advice and guidance to the county’s young people initially supported by the Dorset County Council Youth Service and Social Services, West Dorset District Council, the Primary Care Trusts, the Connexions service and other charities.

Over a period of about 20 years the service provided support for an estimated 6,000 young people.

The building was shared with other services for young people in its later years, run mainly by the Dorset Youth Association. At its peak it had 10 staff delivering services including mental health support, drug and alcohol advice, housing advice, a Connexions service, a young parents group, pregnancy and sexual health services, and the Fresh Start programme.