With reference to South Walks House, I note, with something of a wry smile, the comment made by Cllr. Tony Ferrari, Dorset Council cabinet member for property. (Dorset Echo 26th August 2021).

“This is a council that knows how to get best value for its assets both in simple terms but also in terms of their contribution to the regeneration of our towns.”

No mention of the large public protest against the building of “Titanic Towers” in the first place, no apology for a vanity project which cost £10million.

No mention of the failure to future-proof the building by constructing it in such a way that a change of use would not have been prohibitively expensive.

No mention of there being any “affordable” units in any future scheme should there be a change of use to residential.

The speed with which the Planning Committee received and decided this application for change of use (“national legislation has changed and this plan needed to be submitted now or it would have been more expensive…….”) contrasts starkly with the planning application, made months ago, by the Dorchester Area Community Land Trust (DACLT) to build 15 truly affordable flats, for rent to young working people in Dorchester in West Walks.

The Directors of the DACLT, all of whom are volunteers, have been working for four years to get this first project off the ground.

We have overcome an enormous number of hurdles to reach this point but still find ourselves waiting for planning permission from Dorset Council.

Are we to believe that getting best value for redundant council offices is more important that the pressing and urgent need for truly affordable accommodation in Dorchester and elsewhere in the county?

Our efforts may well be but a drop in the ocean, but providing good, truly affordable accommodation for working people is as vital a part of “regeneration” as any other.

Whilst it’s tempting to think what £10 million could have provided in terms of affordable accommodation, we can only console ourselves with Cllr. Ferrari’s assertion that “the council will not become the developer for the building….”

The joys, delights and wise decisions of a one-party cabinet system of local government never cease to please us all!


Independent Dorchester Town Councillor and Director of DACLT