All posts by Phil Summerton

Advearse drAFT comments on local plan

We have completed a draft response on the Dorset Council Local Plan. The full document can be accessed via the link below. We welcome comments on this response and will be submitting the final version to Dorset Council on 12 March. Also please feel free to use or refer to this document in your own response to Dorset Council.

http://www.advearse.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/ADVEARSE-response-to-Local-Plan-03-03-21.docx

Our main concerns as set out in more detail in our response are summarised below.

Consultation (Page 3)The Dorset Council Local Plan is not a fair and proper consultation. Specific housing plans are given but here are no options or alternatives for people to choose between. The consultation period should be significantly extended under delegated powers and the LP amended to provide strategic alternatives for people to select/comment on.
Housing (Page 4, 5,19)The Local Plan should reflect genuine local housing needs and not be driven by unrealistic and unnecessary government set targets that do not reflect the local situation. Dorset Council should make the case for locally appropriate housing numbers below central targets.
Climate Change/Environmental Protection (Page 5,7)The proposed Local Plan is not compatible with Dorset Council’s declared climate emergency, zero carbon commitments and responsibility for protecting the natural environment
Green Belt/AONB (Page 6)There is little credible support and no strategic policies for the protection of AONB (Area of Natural Beauty) land.
Flood Risk (Page 17)There is a lack of focus on reducing flood risk via Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and avoiding building houses in areas that will increasingly as a result of climate change be at risk of flooding.
Pollution (Page 14)Traffic pollution as a result of large scale housing estates is not taken seriously. The Local Plan must accept that where there are legally exceeded levels of NO2 an AQMA (Air Quality Management Area), will be declared (eg East Street, Bridport).
Expectations on developersA thread running through the plan is a soft approach to developer commitments. Requirements on developers should be mandatory and not optional.
Economy (Page 21)This section needs to be completely reassessed as there is no sense that employment will change radically in the next 20 years.
Transport (Page 24)Transport is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions in Dorset, but there is no credible plan for improving vehicle, cycling and pedestrian networks to achieve the essential reduction in carbon emissions whilst increasing the housing stock.

Making comments on local plan

We have been advised by a supporter that they experienced issues with accessing the Dorset Council website to make comments on the local plan.

The website was not working properly, in particular not saving submissions so people were losing work.

If you experience any issues when putting local plan comments on to the DC website then please advise us so we can make representations to DC. You can as we explained in our previous post email comments to DC.

COMMENTING AND RAISING OBJECTIONS ON LOCAL PLAN (UPDATE)

We have been asked by some supporters how to go about putting in comments/objections on the local plan. Below we set out to do this.

Follow this link to Dorset Council Local Plan page:

https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/planning-buildings-land/planning-policy/dorset-council-local-plan.aspx

There is a “Comment on Dorset Council Local Plan” box. Click on that and it will give you an opportunity to make comments. The system takes you to a comment box for each section of the Local Plan. You only need to comment on the parts you are interested in. Just leave the other sections blank.

Alternatively you can email your comments in to [email protected]

Below is a link to Bridport Town Council’s page on the Local Plan and a video presenting a summary of the Local Plan. This is a really useful short video so please feel free to share this link with anyone else who may or should be interested.

The council’s response to the Local Plan is due to be publicly available after being signed off by their Planning Committee meeting on Monday 22 February.

The CPRE have also set out their concerns with the Local Plan and lack of proper consultation with the people of Dorset. See link below:

https://dorset-cpre.org.uk/news/current-news/item/2268-dorset-cpre-slams-local-plan

The most important section for us in the Local Plan is the West Dorset Functional Area – Section 36 – Bridport.

Vearse Farm plans are covered in Section 36.5.3 which notes “The whole Vearse Farm site could deliver around 930 new homes. This includes about 760 on the main consented part of the site with around a further 170 homes on three residual sites, namely: land at Vearse Farmhouse; land west of Coronation Road; and land to the west of Pine View”.

As a result of losing the judicial review the 760 houses are now “consented” and cannot be opposed/stopped. However, the proposed extra 170 houses will need Outline Planning Permission. The issue for us is that if these extra houses remain in the Local Plan and it is approved by the planning inspector then it will be extremely difficult to stop them from receiving planning permission. Even if we could persuade the Planning Committee to go against their own planning officer recommendation and refuse the planning application the developer could appeal and the Planning Inspectorate would inevitably side with the developer.

So our best chance to oppose this expansion of the VF urban extension is by trying to get it dropped from the Local Plan. To have any chance we need to build up a groundswell of opposition. So the more supporters sending in objections the better! So please ask family/friends to also object.

Points to bear in mind are:

  • The housing planned for Bridport totals 1,139 which is 75% of all the houses included in the plan for the whole of West Dorset. Given the area this is a huge focus on Bridport, which is by many measures is a small market town.
  • The housing target for Dorset for the next 17 years is 30,481 as set by government, but Dorset Council are proposing 39,285 houses. So they plan to build 8,804 (29%) more houses than required by the government!
  • Central government’s housing targets are 47% higher than the existing Local Plans in Dorset and  are way in excess of any sensible forecast of local housing need.
  • The Government’s targets and algorithm are based on outdated and flawed population and household projections.
  • The central housing targets are unrealistically high not least because the central algorithm increases assessed local housing need by 40% to reflect high house prices. The apparent justification for this increase in numbers is that if you build more, then prices will come down!

In addition there are plenty of other grounds for opposing the expansion to the VF urban extension: further building on and erosion of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), increased flood risk of the site and surrounding area, extra load on overstretched Bridport infrastructure (eg car parking in town centre), increased traffic volumes on an unsuitable road (West Road), increased traffic risk to pedestrians/cyclists and failure to provide suitable affordable eco housing for local people.

We will be putting our own draft comments on the Local Plan on our Advearse website early March for our supporters to see and submit our final comments to Dorset Council by their 15 March deadline.

DORSET COUNCIL Climate EMERGENCY Strategy

Advearse have provided comments to Dorset Council on their draft Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy. We have raised many concerns about the strategy and in particular it’s lack of urgency

Introduction

The Dorset Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy consultation document is detailed and wide ranging.

There is much to comment positively on, but for brevity we focus on those aspects where we consider the emphasis is wrong and where mitigation options are not considered or included in the strategy.

Foreword

The approach adopted in the consultation document shows a lack of urgency.

The stated preference is to do the investigation and information gathering first before setting out the Dorset Council strategy. In normal circumstances this might be a sensible approach but given that the consensus view of climate scientists is that the Climate Emergency presents an existential threat to mankind a greater sense of urgency and action is essential.

In May 2019, Parliament declared a ‘climate change emergency’ and has a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the United Kingdom (based on 1990 levels) by 50% by 2025 and by 100% by 2050. Strategies and action plans are being established to achieve these goals. At a local level many councils have followed this approach by setting challenging targets in keeping with the crisis and UK Government targets and then working out how to achieve them.

By setting targets now Dorset Council can quickly move to developing strategies/actions to achieve the targets within clear timeframes. The current approach is likely to involve continuous rounds of consultation, debates, updates and no doubt more consultation before even getting to set formal targets and start taking action. This process lends itself to “kicking the can down the road” and not facing up to the tough actions that will need to be taken now.

We believe that Dorset Council should:

  • Set challenging targets in each of the areas set out in the consultation. A good start is to accept the overall target mentioned below. So for Dorset that would be a formal target of halving carbon emissions by 2030.
  • These targets should cover areas where the council have direct control and also where the council can use their authority to make other stakeholders deliver on combating climate change. A good example is ensuring that developers provide housing to high eco standards for all housing covering all current and future outline and detailed planning applications.

Introduction

The Introduction notes:

Recent reports note that we must act swiftly to cut emissions if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, caused by global temperatures rising above 1.5 degree.

What is not said is the consensus view of climate scientists that:

 to stay below a 1.5°C increase in global temperature by the end of the century means that carbon emissions will need to be halved by the end of this decade and in practical terms that means a reduction of 7.6 % every year throughout this decade.

Knowing that this goal is essential – the Dorset Council strategy should just accept it and then focus on how it can be delivered for Dorset.

The Climate Emergency

The brief summary of Climate Emergency correctly notes that we have only 8-10 years at the current rate, within which serious action is required to avert this crisis and avoid the worst impacts. This reinforces the importance of setting targets now and then striving to achieve them. Procrastination is the enemy of success.

The summary of impacts provided includes a number of understatements. 

Sea level – It notes that sea level rise may be in the range 27 – 115 mm by 2100. However, in November 2019 a report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers advised government to prepare for a 3m rise by 2100. Also in 2015 an eminent group of climate scientists advised that a 3m rise could occur as soon as 2050.

Clearly these predictions would make the impacts on the six key areas that are identified far more severe.

The first key area noted is – FLOODING & COASTAL CHANGE RISKS TO COM-MUNITIES, BUSINESSES, & INFRASTRUCTURE

Flooding has been an issue for many parts of Dorset for many years with increasing concern at the continued building of large housing developments in known flood plains.

The IPCC 5th Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers (p20) notes:

The UK is set to see about a 10 per cent rise in annual average rainfall by 2100 compared to the period 1985-2005

It’s not just the total amount of rainfall that scientists expect to increase. The IPCC report also predicts Europe and the UK is “very likely” to see more heavy rainfall events by the end of the century. A lot of rain falling in a short space of time raises flood risk, and there’s already evidence heavy rainfall events are getting more frequent in the UK due to climate change, as a report recently released from the Met Office explains.

Heavier rainfall plus sea level rise – which make storm surges bigger and more likely to breach coastal defences – has scientists warning of a greater flood risk in the UK as the climate warms.

The risk of rising sea levels and increased major flooding events need to be fully acknowledged in the Strategy Report. This should spur the need for serious actions to avoid and mitigate these risks.

A straight forward and sensible action that Dorset Council can take is to decline all building and housing developments in flood plains and areas at risk of flooding in the future. If DC continues to permit building in flood plains then they should not rely solely on surveys conducted by third parties for developers.

Dorset’s coastline is, and has been for centuries, under attack from the sea, even without a rise in sea-level. Recent years show that quite soon major changes will be seen in the local coastline of Chesil Bank. We understand that Dorset did ask a firm to conduct surveys of Chesil Bank and the effects of tide, winds etc on the shingle.

It is important for DC to share with the public these and similar reports on coastal erosion and the expert recommendations made. This will help to build public confidence that these issues are being taken seriously by DC and the appropriate actions being taken to minimise coastal erosion.

Action Against Climate Change

The Paris Agreement is misquoted. The consultation document states that the agreement was to keep global warming below 2°Cwhereas Article 2(a)actually said:

Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

This might seem like a small point but again it suggests a failure to acknowledge the sheer scale of the climate change challenge.

Areas for Action

This document explains how the eight areas for action were identified.  A task force was set up for each area and each is reported in subsequent sections of the consultation, including summary action sheets.

There is a lot of detail and on page 22 refers to ‘Dorset Council’s Carbon Budget’ which includes the statement “We have chosen to set an earlier target by achieving a carbon neutral Council by 2040”. Given this is only 19 years away it is vital that DC move into action this year to have any chance of achieving that goal.

Unfortunately this goal only covers Council operations and as “Dorset Council only has control over the carbon emissions produced from its operations and this will be a key focus of our initial programme”.

The report refers to under the greenest scenario energy demand in the Dorset Council area will be around 4 billion kWh/yr (4,000GWh/yr) and for Dorset Council alone it would be 60 MW/yr. So that means that Dorset Council represents just 0.0015% of what is needed for Dorset.

So the Direct action plan will not address 99.9985% of the carbon reduction required. Whilst there are some Indirect (I) and Influence & Partnership (P) actions mentioned these are vague and limited.

In reality to address the climate emergency Dorset Council have to focus on the 99.9985% and take concrete actions to address as much of this as possible. Spending a lot of time and effort on the tiny fraction of energy consumption that their operations represent will be seen as virtue signalling and avoiding facing up to the real challenge.

There are many areas where Dorset Council (and the town/parish councils) has considerable influence and control. What is required is some imagination and determination.

For example encourage the use of electric vehicles by using nudge tactics: waive car parking charges and taxi driver fees for EVs, have EV priority parking spaces and taxi ranks. There are many other actions we have noted in this document, which although potentially politically difficult for DC to take, would make a big contribution to achieving the necessary climate change goals.

Renewable Energy

The action plan includes as an objective: Establish a positive planning policy frame-work and toolkit for maximising the use of renewable energy within development

It is unclear what developments are included.  Does it cover both commercial and residential development? Also are there any targets that define “maximise”?

Lobbying is identified as requires action to ensure new building, including residential, are carbon neutral.

The proposals for solar farms or on-shore wind turbines are sensible and should also cover off-shore wind energy. Actions are needed to encourage schemes to provide for these renewable energy projects.

Buildings

Current planning legislation

We note that the National Planning Policy Framework (2019) [NPPF] states in paragraph 148:

“The planning system should support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate… It should shape places in ways that contribute to radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions…. in line with the objectives and provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008”. 

It is striking to note that the Strategy Document states that current planning legislation prevents setting zero-carbon standards for new builds.

So it seems that the planning system will have no real part to play in setting the new energy efficiency standards. Instead, they will be implemented through the Future Homes Standard proposed in October 2019, whereby the standards in Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations for new dwellings will be tightened from 2025. New homes built to comply with the Future Homes Standard will be expected to produce 75-80% lower CO2 emissions compared to current levels and will be zero carbon ready.

Clearly the 2025 date set by this standard is totally unacceptable and Dorset Council should lobby on this issue to ensure that the date is bought forward to 2021. Whatever date is set for these new standards Dorset Council should ensure that internal resources are applied to the monitoring and enforcement of these and existing carbon efficiency building regulations.

DC should also actively lobby for eco friendly changes to new build regulations including: installation of solar panels, heat pumps, electric vehicle charging points.

DC should give much more attention to public and domestic applications incorporating Heat Pumps that are efficient in generating energy far greater than the energy they use.

Zero carbon houses in Dorset

The action plan rightly includes an objective to ensure new buildings in Dorset are zero-carbon. It is noted that that 18,000 houses will be built in the next 10 years and that these will need to be zero-carbon.

The actions to achieve this are listed as I (indirect) and do not include lobbying government to alter planning rules to allow zero-carbon to be required.  This lobbying action should be included. Also the timescales for developing planning policies are far too long and lack any sense of urgency. It should not take 2 to 3 years to develop policies and strategies.

Despite the accepted limitation of the current planning laws there is a need for more direct Dorset Council actions to meet their goal of zero-carbon houses. Projects such as the Watton eco-Village in Bridport envisage zero-carbon housing.

It is strange that Dorset Council have shown no support for the Watton Village project. Particularly, given the eco and zero-carbon goals built-into that project. Surely these goals and the approach of Watton eco-Village are necessary for all major developments in Dorset.

A suitable action would be for all projects from Spring 2021, either approved in Outline or detailed planning permission to have, as part of the approval, targets for improvement of water use and recycling, insulation, heat conservation and re-cycling.

An eco first approach to housing development projects should be encouraged and nurtured by the Council. The Council have a responsibility to meet the Government set housing targets but that does not mean that they should just accept the traditional housing developer/landowner led projects that fail to put zero-carbon as a priority and focus instead on profitability.

By encouraging projects with a zero carbon focus the Council will have options to give these schemes priority over the standard housing developer led projects without breaking the current planning laws. Surplus Council owned land can be earmarked for affordable zero-carbon housing schemes.

Second home ownership in Dorset continues to grow with 20% of houses purchased in 2018 were second homes. With the Covid pandemic in 2020 this trend has continued. Second homes add to the climate change emergency due to the cost of heating etc. Also there is the cost of building houses for only part time occupation with the impact on the availability and pricing of houses for local people.

An action to address this is to require all new major housing developments to not permit second/multiple house ownership in perpetuity.

The Council tax for second owned houses should be increased each year in excess off the normal tax increase. The extra funds obtained can then be ear marked for actions to combat climate change.

Existing householders should be encouraged to make their homes more energy efficient. Discounts on the council tax can be offered where proven energy efficient and carbon reduction steps have been taken.

DC should also lobby government to increase SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax) on second homes with the extra tax raised ear marked to fund social housing. DC can also give priority to planning applications for land used for static caravans which make perfectly good second/holiday homes and have a low carbon footprint and occupy a smaller plot than a house would.

A final point is that the meaning of zero carbon houses should be clearly defined as this will help in ensuring appropriate targets are set and actions identified.

For example:

  • Does it apply, as per building regulations, only to ‘regulated energy’ – those fixed and integral services and fittings in the home such as the space heating, hot water, ventilation and lighting – or also to ‘unregulated energy’ including things a developer can’t as easily control such as those used through plug-in appliances and cooking?
  • Does it relate to just a home’s day-to-day operational energy use or to life-cycle carbon emissions, including that embedded in its construction?

Natural Assets

The technical paper indicates that there is an opportunity for increased tree planting and that guidance should be developed to ensure community tree planting initiatives are ecologically robust and sensitive to the local landscape.

However, the action plan is restricted to developing guidance on suitable tree planting and does not commit to any planting on Dorset Council land.  This commitment should be strengthened.

The requirement for an increase in tree planting on new housing developments should be a further action.

This will show that DC is taking more notice of the huge contribution to improvement of the air we breathe from planting trees. Each large development should be the subject of a Survey and Report by the Council’s Environmental team particularly addressing the need for trees with recommendations of the extent and type of planting needed. These documents should be made public.

Transport

It is stated that transport alone is responsible for an estimated 765 kilotons of CO2e each year, making it the single biggest contributor to the county’s footprint.

A significant shift will be needed to make active travel and public transport the first transport mode of choice. 

Two of the areas of action noted are:

(a) to ensure access to sustainable transport is considered in planning applications and

(b) improve quality & availability of public transport to make services more at tractive to the travelling public.

It is recognised that the rural nature of the county generally makes the private car the transport mode of choice for most in the rural areas simply because it is the only option.

However, for many areas this will always be the situation as it will be uneconomic to provide public transport suitable for commuting throughout the villages in the county. Measures are outlined to make public transport more attractive to use, but where public transport is not a realistic option the three main ways of reducing car mileage are:

  • removing the need to commute by encouraging home working
  • preventing additional journeys
  • encouraging cycling

The action plan does mention home working and stated that it will work with Digital Dorset to promote the use of ICT to individuals and businesses. It must be noted that this is only committing to produce promotional materials in a one year timescale, which is disappointingly slow. 

However, no mention is made of increasing the provision of high speed fibre broadband to rural locations.  Lobbying for this should be included in the actions as a priority as costs are low and benefits could be considerable.

Preventing new, unnecessarily long private car journeys is noted in two actions. To improve low carbon transport access to sustainable transport will be considered in planning applications.

This is to be welcomed, but it is difficult to comprehend why the target date for this is the end of 2023, when it could be included in planning assessments with immediate effect.

Secondly, it states that Through the Local Plan ensure (as far as possible) developments are located in sustainable locations close to key services & the need to travel by car is reduced.

Again this is welcomed.  It is noted that the target is to have policies developed and agreed by 2023. This is the date that the Local Plan is due to be published, but for this to happen it is essential that the Local Plan Options Consultation must include this commitment.

Conclusion

We agree with Dorset Council effort to move on the climate change emergency. The Dorset Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy consultation document is detailed and wide ranging.

Although this seems in the main to have been prompted as a response to climate change protests in May 2019 when the council declared a climate change emergency.

Given that it is nearly 2 years since this declaration the pace of movement is far too slow.

The approach adopted in the consultation document continues to show a lack of urgency.

Our main criticism is that there are many actions that the council can take now and do not have to wait on consultations etc. Some actions may be politically difficult (eg increase council tax on second homes, only accept major housing schemes that carbon neutral etc). But they are essential and it is down to the council’s moral leadership to grasp them and get on with doing what they promised when they declared a climate change emergency.

Local Plan

Dorset Council have produced a draft Local Plan containing proposals for guiding future development in the Dorset Council area up to 2038. Advearse will be commenting on this plan and we will share our views on this website when completed. The deadline for comments is 15 March 2021.

Dorset Council comment: “The plan outlines the strategy for meeting the needs of the area such as housing, employment, and community services including schools, retail, leisure and community facilities. The plan directs development to the most suitable locations near to existing facilities, and detailed policies promote high quality development that respects and enhances the character of each area. The plan also protects Dorset’s natural environment and contributes towards the mitigation and adaptation to climate change.”

The link for the Local Plan is:

https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/planning-buildings-land/planning-policy/dorset-council-local-plan.aspx

The draft Local Plan includes further 170 houses being sited on Vearse Farm. This will increase the already approved 760 houses up to 930 houses. It is now painfully clear that having got the 760 houses plan approved Dorset Council will continue to add to this Bridport Urban extension.

It is vital that we all take the opportunity to let Dorset Council know our views on this part of the Local Plan. Once the Local Plan is finalised and approved by the inspector then it will be extremely difficult to stop the expanded VF from receiving outline planning permission.

Annual Report for 2020

  1. JUDICIAL REVIEW

The Judicial Review was held in Cardiff in February. Ultimately the Judge found against us on two of the three grounds. We did see, however, many positives. The Judge’s criticisms of WDDC and his finding in our favour on one ground justified the bringing of the case.

The quality of our input / support was helpful to our Counsel. Our case stacked up well in court. The Judge accepted our case about the amount of costs which should be awarded against us and for the Council. This meant that we stayed in budget – not a mean feat!

We maintained the support of our donors and supporters and are grateful for their support.

We held up Hallam for at least a year.

We won the argument if not the case.

  • After JR –We have chosen to stay in existence with a refocused brief. There are 3 broad aims:
  • Ensuring that Bridport gets the maximum benefit from whatever development happens on the site
  • Seeking to address the deficiencies in the current scheme e.g. the dangers for traffic and pedestrian access to the town centre.
  • Ensuring that the commitments in the S106 agreement are met in full

During the year we have followed a number of strands e.g. we involved a Traffic consultant to advise us on the impact of VF on traffic and pedestrians in Bridport. The consultant identified a number of areas where we can (and will) use traffic regulations to challenge deficiencies in the current scheme.

We have been in communication with Dorset Council about the conduct of the Detailed Planning application stage. We are pushing for full public access to the plans, a proper consultation process of adequate length and full involvement of our elected members in the decision process.

We maintain a constant watch on the Land Registry site for signs that the ownership of VF has changed. A change in ownership of VF would occur when house builders have bought into the scheme and development would commence in earnest.  We also maintain a watch on Hallam’s website and use our contacts to keep up to date on any possible moves in relation to VF.

Flood risk is an issue that we have repeatedly raised with the Council for the last seven years. Many of our supporters have raised this as a continuing major concern. The risk of serious flooding on the VF site has been dismissed by the planners as a once in a hundred years event despite plenty of climate change evidence and lived experience to the contrary. We have little confidence in the planned VF flood defences and are logging all cases of flooding on the site. We will continue to apply as much pressure as we can on flood risks as the consequences for Bridport are extremely serious.

We have continued to meet on a monthly basis – using an online meeting programme as a result of Covid restrictions.

The website is kept up to date with news of our activities and other relevant developments. We also maintain an Advearse email account for communication with supporters and other interested parties.

We have issued press releases and other media communications during the year, particularly around the time of the JR. This included coverage on national media.

  • Making Connections with wider Dorset Devts

The current proposed changes to the Planning system together with post COVID move out of South Eastern England will put extra pressures on West Dorset. We have continued to build links with others interested in sustaining the glories of West Dorset. This work has included:

  • Helping with two local cases involving unwarranted development
  • Links to the Dorset AONB committee
  • Supporting the campaign for designation as a National Park 
  • Links to groups similar to ADVEARSE in other parts of Dorset via Pan Dorset Group – On hold due to COVID

We are realistic about the chances of stopping VF but are satisfied we can continue to have purpose

Thanks to all of the Steering Group and all the supporters of ADVEARSE.

Change in Advearse objectives, membership & AGM


As previously reported, ADVEARSE has now moved on to a new phase focusing on ensuring the planning obligations and promises made by Hallam, such as the provision of 35% affordable housing (at around 80% of usual market value) and improvements to the A35 Miles Cross junction, are honoured.  We will also be closely examining aspects of the development that do not appear to meet legal requirements, including pedestrian safety. Our supporters can be assured that we will fight any attempt to back track on developer and council commitments

Sarah Carney has left Advearse in view of her role as a Bridport Town Councillor and possible conflicts with also being a member of Advearse. We would like to thank Sarah for all her years of great work with Advearse. David Tett (former Town and District councilor) rejoined and brings a wealth of local government experience that will be invaluable.

We held our AGM on 26 October and will be shortly posting the annual report on our website.

Letter to Bridport News

We have been asked by a number of residents for our views on the proposed changes to the plans for Vearse Farm as publicised in last week’s Bridport News… The proposed changes are minor in themselves but we have urged the Council to hold the developers to the agreed plans .There are many examples nationally where developers, having obtained planning permission manipulate, the plans by for example reducing the amount of affordable houses.. The applicants were aware of the 106 conditions when they signed the Legal Agreement in May 2019 and the Council should signal to the developers, they intend to hold them to the commitments made in full.

We would also point out that if the access road nearer town and related footpaths and cycleways are  not built until 300 houses are occupied  then traffic will increase significantly along West Road and the narrow pavements will present increased  dangers to pedestrians.

The request to changes the plans for access should, however, be taken as an opportunity by Dorset Council to address the failure of the previous West Dorset Council when considering the original application. The proposed change is about access ONTO the site.  We have always argued that the plans should have also considered access into town. We need a new traffic assessment because the one at the time of the original planning permission has serious errors e.g.  in underestimating traffic flows at the North Allington roundabout and overestimating the width of pavements on West Road.,

Local people still have many concerns about the impact of Vearse Farm on the town. We urge our local representatives to take this opportunity to address those related to traffic and access in a more holistic way.

Hello – We are still here!

It has been a few months since we posted any updates or sent out any communications to our supporters. Since the Judicial review ruled against us in April 2020 things have been quiet on the Vearse Farm development front. But there are now a few updates to provide you with.

Sale of Vearse Farm development

As we reported in June the development had been put up for sale by Hallam Land with a requirement for bids to be made by 15 July for all or parcels of land on the site.

We have been monitoring Hallam’s website and relevant news sources and we have not seen any updates on how the bidding process went.

Hallam Land’s Interim Business Update for the end June 2020 states that:

“Our house builder customers are at differing stages in returning to the land market. Nonetheless, we are receiving bids for land at prices not noticeably impacted by CV-19, although we do not expect these deals to contribute to this year’s numbers. However, pressure on land pricing and average returns per plot has continued, with the forthcoming changes to building regulations likely to have a growing impact in the medium term.

As we enter H2 Hallam Land is in a strong position, with all its budgeted business for the current year contractually exchanged. Additionally, we are in advanced negotiations on further disposals of plots, which we expect to complete next year.”

It is highly likely that if Hallam had been able to complete any deals with house builders for Vearse Farm this would have been publicised. Hallam’s business model is to facilitate the sale of the approved outline planning development as soon as possible so that they and the land owners can take their cut of the proceeds and leave the house builders to get on with the detailed planning applications and the long term building work.

We suspect that this lack of progress is as a result of the current economic uncertainty and the delay resulting from the judicial review. Most probably bids received didn’t meet Hallam expectations and are subject to ongoing negotiations.

Vearse Farm working group

The working group was formed in a couple of months ago and has representatives from Hallam, Dorset Council, Bridport Town Council and other local organisations with an interest in the Vearse Farm development.

The working group’s draft objective is:

“To facilitate, through the active discussion and participation of the various local stakeholders, public engagement and communication, the next stages in the planning of the Vearse Farm development with particular focus on the design aspects and the delivery of the S106 obligations and benefits it affords for the residents of Bridport and its surrounding parishes.”

See the following link for the report on the group’s latest meeting:

https://www.bridport-tc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/26-10-20-VEARSE-FARM-WORKING-GROUP-ENCL-3549.pdf

Advearse were not invited to join the working group – which given the legal challenge and our unpopularity with Hallam is not surprising!

However, we fully support the working group activities and their objective mirrors exactly what our focus will be going forward. It is good to see that Bridport Town Council will be making the work of this group public.

We will of course be ready to raise with the working group any issues that need their attention to make sure that Bridport gets the absolute maximum benefit from the Vearse Farm development.

 Proposed change to planning application

Hallam have submitted an application that seeks to vary two conditions of the previously granted outline permission, relating to the two vehicular access points on West Road (East Access is opposite Lodge Lane and West Access is opposite the entrance to Crepe Farm)

Hallam wants the flexibility to build these two accesses in the order that matches the eventual order in which the development is delivered – previously the conditions required that the eastern access be delivered first.

The decision on this would most likely be made by Dorset Council planning officials and not be required to go to the planning committee and receive comments/objections from the public and interested parties.

Whilst it may seem a small change it is worrying development as it could set a precedent for other changes to be requested to provide “flexibility. Further amendments could be requested that reduce the benefits set out in 106 Agreement (e.g. provision of Affordable Housing, Miles Cross roundabout, cycle/pedestrian routes etc). Given Dorset Council’s inability to stand up to developers we could see a steady erosion of the benefits from the Vearse Farm development and this Advearse will be watching and applying pressure that Hallam sticks rigidly to and complies with all the conditions of the Sectiion 106 Agreement.

The revised application documents will be accessible on the Dorset Council website from 28th October.

We will be pressing for the decision on this change to go to the full planning committee so that it can be discussed in a public forum rather than be a quiet deal passed by unaccountable council officials.