Residents to fight ‘madcap’ Dorchester office plans

Posted on by John Cronin

Local opposition is growing a week after controversial plans for new council offices in Dorchester were approved.

As previously reported, the £60m mixed-use redevelopment plans for the Charles Street scheme in Dorchester that include the relocation of council offices were approved last week by West Dorset District Council’s (WDDC) development control committee. It has now emerged that members of the planning committee voted six to two in favour of the planning application. Since announcing their decision the council has received approximately 300 letters of objection.

dorchester officeThe focal point for opposition to the scheme centres upon the WDDC plans to build new council offices at the site costing £10.5m (see artists impression). The council claims that the new offices will save £145,000 a year, a figure that local campaigners say does not justify the expenditure.

Mike West, co-founder of the Dorchester Forum website, told the BBC: “The offices have been there for 40 years and the council has maintained them. The amount of money they are talking of spending is out of proportion with any productivity gains they are talking about.”

This recent comment made on the forum this week indicates the strength of feeling amongst the campaigners: “Last Tuesday was a dark day for Dorchester and the misappropriation of taxpayers’ funds. Perhaps it’s time for those Council Tax payers who are opposed to the scheme sent a clear signal to WDDC that they are simply not prepared to fund their new multimillion-pound office block HQ.”

Councillor Robert Gould, leader of West Dorset council, who voted for the new offices said: “We simply can’t go on like this, spending huge amounts of tax payers money maintaining and running buildings that will never be suitable for offices. ”

One of the two councillors who voted against the plans at the meeting was Karl Wallace, county councillor for Bridport. He is quoted in the Bridport News as saying: “Although there were lots of members of the public there, a lot of their concerns weren’t actually planning issues – it was the financing of it.” Mr Wallace said he had objections to the size and mass of the building and believed it would be out of character with the historic street setting.

Residents opposing the new office scheme have called the plans “madcap” and an “eyesore”. A large group of placard-carrying campaigners protested outside the council building where the meeting was due to be held.

Developers behind the entire £60m Charles Street scheme are Simons Group. The company is aiming to start construction works in early 2011.

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