Campaigners opposed to a development of 500 homes in north Dorset said the decision to approve it was ‘a sad day for local democracy’.

As previously reported, Dorset Council's Northern Area Planning Committee had voted in favour, by seven to one, of a plan from Wyatt Homes to build 490 homes between Blandford and Pimperne.

A group of campaigners - made up of North Dorset CPRE, Pimperne Parish Council, the Cranborne Chase AONB and local residents - have voiced their outrage at the plans.

They say that housing needs in the area are already provided for those in Blandford and Pimperne, and have said that there is ‘questionable evidence’ in a need for a new school in the area.

Rupert Hardy, chairman of the North Dorset CPRE, said: “There was little evidence of the need for a new school with data showing declining school rolls, and if there was need later, surely this could be achieved more cheaply with a few extra classrooms?”

A spokesperson for Wyatt Homes said: “The need for a future new school and its location has been established through the Blandford Neighbourhood Plan, which has been scrutinised and endorsed twice over now by experienced independent examiners/planning inspectors.  Dorset Council as Local Education Authority has also confirmed the need for the school site.”

Mr Hardy went on to say that the new development will result in ‘severe’ traffic congestion around Blandford.

The spokesperson for Wyatt Homes said: “Highways, traffic and access was carefully considered by Dorset Council Highway Officers and a number of highways improvements will come forward as part of the plans which will be secured through conditions and in a legal agreement between Wyatt Homes and the Council.”

Campaigners are also protesting at the developer’s plans to build on part of the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

“Admittedly the development is well designed, but is clearly in the wrong place,” Mr Hardy added.

The spokesperson for Wyatt Home said: “Only a small part of the planning application lies within the AONB, there are no new homes proposed on this part of the site, which would be used for open space, allotments and education.”

The plans also conflict with Pimperne’s Neighbourhood Plan, according to campaigners, as 150 of the proposed 490 homes will be built within the parish.  

Pimperne Parish Council stands to gain the least from this development, according to campaigners, as councillors say the parish will not receive benefits from a section 106 agreement between the developers and council.

There are also fears from campaigners that the development threatens the ‘important gap’ between the village of Pimperne and the town of Blandford.

Pimperne Parish Council Chairman Peter Slocombe said: “It is a sad day for local democracy. This decision sends a clear message to Dorset villages that it is hardly worth creating these plans that were initiated by the government over a decade ago.”

The Wyatt Homes representative said: “Development of the wider application site incorporating some land which is within the parish of Pimperne has facilitated a better and much more beneficial scheme overall.

"It brings improved placemaking, design and connectivity, and there is more green infrastructure including parkland, woodland planting, public open space and sustainable drainage. 

“The development would not be visible from Pimperne village. Pimperne is readily appreciated as a separate and independent settlement in its own right and the development will not change this,” they added.