MORE than 1,000 protesters took to the streets to rally against a new library and council offices for Dorchester amid claims it is being pushed through undemocratically.

The huge crowd brought the county town to a standstill on Saturday afternoon after setting off from county hall and heading through the town centre with a police escort to the proposed site of West Dorset District Council’s new offices on the Charles Street car park.

The protesters carried placards with the words ‘stop council offices now’, ‘people not premises’ and ‘restore democracy now’.

Council leader Robert Gould came under fire with one protest sign reading ‘Gouldafi Out’ with his face superimposed on a picture of Libyan leader Colonel Gaddaffi A tank was parked up at the car park as Stop Council Offices Now (SCON) member Alistair Chisholm began a series of speeches which whipped up fervour and shouts of ‘shame’ against the council from the mixed crowd of youngsters, families and pensioners.

In his opening speech in Charles Street Mr Chisholm said it was wrong for £15m to be spent on the development by the council at a time when ‘the public purse is shrinking’.

He said: “There are people throughout West Dorset who don’t know what is going on and feelings range from puzzlement to disbelief and extreme anger.”

Mr Chisholm complained that there had been ‘no public consultation’.

“It’s disingenuous for Robert Gould to claim the public could have attended the council meetings and that they amounted to public consultation,” he added.

Mr Chisholm also claimed in the course of the planning meetings ‘negotiations took place behind closed doors with no clear information reaching the public’. He added: “We deserve and demand to know more.

“West Dorset District Council has been turned into a self-serving despotic organisation that believes it can get away with the most undemocratic behaviour.”

Mr Chisholm’s speech was received with cheers and applause .

Michael Turner QC, one of the country’s leading criminal barristers who has a home in West Dorset, gave a speech slamming West Dorset District Council and its leadership.

Mike Chaney of the Ad Lib campaign group also gave a speech to call on the proposed new £5million library to be scrapped as other libraries need to be saved from closure.

He said: “Why when so much is being cut back is West Dorset District Council so out of step?” Mr Chaney criticised the plan to pay the money to build the library and then also spend £200,000 per year to use it. He added: “If it means closing half the other libraries I’m against it.”