As announced on 6 April 2020 Advearse lost its judicial review against the Vearse Farm development. During our campaign to raise funds for this legal challenge we had stated that it was our last chance to overturn Dorset Council’s decision to allow 760 largely unaffordable houses and industrial units in Symondsbury as an urban extension of Bridport.
Although this remains the situation, the pandemic and its economic fallout may well have an impact on the VF development. We have decided to continue to oppose this development as we are driven by the continuing widespread concerns and reasons for opposition.
Also it remains our view and that of our supporters that the VF development is far from done and dusted. There are serious problems with the plans which will need to be addressed before any houses are built. The developers can rest assured that they will face intense scrutiny and challenge as they progress through the detailed planning stages and at any point should they fail to deliver what has been promised in the S106 agreement.
Reasons to oppose VF development
Below is an updated list of all the reasons to continue to oppose the VF development and seek to hinder its progress:
- Increased Flood Risk – The Vearse Farm site drains rainwater down to the River Simene and the flood plain. The river and flood plain are only just coping, with both flooding regularly for days on end, in heavy rain during the year 2014. Flooding has extended up on to the main West Road to the side of the flood plain, this being frequently evident in late 2015, and early 2016. The river and flood plain are doing their job – with natural drainage from above. If the land above is covered in concrete this will completely disrupt normal drainage and almost certainly exacerbate the flood risk. Before any further plans are laid for this development a full flood-risk assessment should be undertaken.
- Traffic Implications – West Road is widely used by traffic, including buses and the many visitors, as the way in to Bridport via the A35 bypass junction at Miles Cross. The massive up-scaling of residential accommodation in this area would have a marked effect on the amount of traffic using West Road and the already dangerous junction at Miles Cross. In turn of course, it would lead to even greater congestion, as vehicles enter the town. There is likely to be a greater use of the ‘rat-runs’ through Skilling Hill and Broad Lane, with concomitant stress on local residents in these areas. In particular, pressure on traffic density arises because Bridport town is served by ‘lanes’ out to Beaminster, Salway Ash, Chideock, West Bay, Abbotsbury Weymouth. The A35 goes south as a By-pass and hardly relieves town traffic. Even in Spring 2020 density of Traffic at junction East, West and South streets is near potential ‘saturation’. This becomes evident in Summer time. With a development of this size, at least 1000 extra vehicles would be using the road, and there would be a constant stream of lorries involved with the construction during the development and associated industrial units that are proposed. There will be acute shortage of car parking spaces in town for local people, shoppers and tourists. It would completely change the face of the town and the traffic flow in this part of Bridport.
- Failure to address the needs of disabled and elderly people – Bridport, in particular Allington, has very narrow pavements. This results in hazards to pedestrians and cyclists on West Road. Bridport has an aging population and many residents with disabilities. It is vital that there is safe accessibility to and from development for all users, whether wheeled, on foot or disabled. The current VF plans do not provide for this.
- Inadequate Infrastructure – A development of the approved 760 houses would result in an increase of 2000-3000 people – more than the residents of Charmouth parish (about 1800). The population of Bridport parish is about 7,500 and Bridport ‘built-up area’ including Allington, Bothenhampton & Walditch, Bradpole and Symondsbury, totals 14,500. This development would markedly change the size and feel of the town, and would result in insufficient capacity at the medical centre and local hospitals — longer waiting times for appointments, operations and emergency ambulances.
- Size of Development – The sheer scale of this proposed development adding, in effect, another ‘Poundbury’ to this attractive, rural part of Bridport, should mean that an active debate must occur, with full involvement and sounding-out of opinion from the residents of Bridport. We need to be kept closely in touch with proposals that are likely to have an marked effect on our much-loved town and way of life. This democratic procedure would be part of the delivered Neighbourhood Plan, and subsequent referendum, expected in December 2016.
- Continued expansion – The approved 760 houses (plus business park, school, care home etc) is only the start. The latest Local Plan included the Council’s intention to up this to 930 houses. Another landowner has made it clear that permission to build a pedestrian route to Bridport town centre across their land would only be granted in return for planning permission to build yet more houses. In total the VF development is highly likely to expand to well beyond a thousand houses. The population increase and pressure on infrastructure will only get worse.
- Loss of character of Bridport – Bridport has recently been doubly nominated in the Top Ten Market Towns and Top Ten High Streets in Britain – an extraordinary accolade and a tribute to the unspoiled character of the town. We feel this would be greatly damaged by an estate of 760 houses on the attractive hillside at the edge of town, within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- Loss of an important AONB site and heritage asset — VF is vital to the Conservation Area and World Heritage Jurassic Coast setting. Also the development will put further damage on the environment with the destruction of established hedgerows and trees and the associated habitat.
- Archaeological damage – The possible destruction of an important archaeological site including a significant, ancient burial site and artefacts found during the exploratory dig.
- Failure to provide genuinely affordable homes for Bridport people — The VF development is yet again a failure to focus on providing affordable homes. What VF will provide is largely second homes and luxury houses for retirees instead. Affordable, low-cost and social housing for local people in housing need are not given any strategic priority by Dorset Council. Similarly, alternative development model opportunities, such as community land trusts, co-housing and eco-homes projects, are overlooked. Instead, Dorset Council are relentlessly biased towards the private developer and the free-market model. Encouraging them to build huge-scale developments, largely on AONB and other greenfield sites, allows DC to bypass any proper strategic investigation into how to solve the housing crisis. Instead of investigating other reasonable options, it promotes a cynically expeditious gross oversupply of unnecessary, expensive housing in order to meet locally irrelevant national targets for ‘growth’. This is done in the hope of a trade-off for a potential, but not guaranteed, 35% so-called affordable housing, available at 80% of a cost grossly inflated by the model itself.
- Threat to the area’s bid for National Park status – There is a real need for establishment of the Dorset National Park to protect as much of the AONB as we can. Developments of the scale of VF will put the National Park recognition at risk.
- More Pollution – VF coupled with a large number of smaller developments (planned and ongoing) will increase the pollution levels in parts of Bridport. This will have a detrimental impact on the health of local residents. In particular, the council website (Air Quality in Dorset) states that East Road, Bridport has ‘shown exceeded levels of NO2’. However, at present there is no intention to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA)’. This goes against government regulations and has been repeatedly criticised by DEFRA. This issue has been going on for years and will only become worse with VF driven traffic levels.No proper consideration has been given with council relying on the county highways comment that they ‘believe’ VF will not cause any air quality issues. Added to this will be the increase in pollution as a result of heavy plant traffic during ten years plus of construction.
- Loss of agricultural land – VF provide high quality farming land and its loss will continue to see the decline in the UK’s ability to provide food security.