On 4 August Dorset Council Western & Southern Planning Committee granted the reserved matters planning application for Foundry Lea (Vearse Farm).

This is a huge disappointment to Advearse who have campaigned for the last 9 years to have this plan refused because of its impact on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as well as the negative impact on a small market town with limited infrastructure to support the influx of over 2,000 new residents. This represents a massive 20% increase in the local population.

Dorset Council have justified this development on the basis that it is “appropriate” and in the authority’s housing plan. Serious concerns that Advearse have being raising over the last 9 years have been repeatedly dismissed or ignored by Dorset Council or its predecessor West Dorset District Council. The fact that the Vearse Farm development was included in the Local Plan was used as an excuse to force approval by the Planning Committee at the Outline Planning Application (OPP) in 2017. The fact that the OPP had been approved was used last Thursday to persuade the committee members that the plans were set in stone and that they could not be amended. Sadly only two councillors saw fit to object to the application and demand that more was done to at least make the application carbon neutral.

In 2019 Advearse challenged the OPP via a Judicial Review. Although building on the AONB is only allowed in exceptional circumstance the judge took the view that building housing in a county which has a large amount of AONB designated land was sufficient reason to dismiss our JR.

Since 2019 our focus has been on campaigning for the best outcome for Bridport from this development. Alongside others we have been able to prompt the developers to improve the detailed plans submitted in December 2021. The amended plans submitted in June 2022 do not go far enough in addressing the serious concerns raised and requests by us and others for further changes were rejected by council officers.

Astonishingly, instead of setting aside a full day for study and comprehensive discussion and debate on an application of such huge scale, which will massively affect the future of Bridport, the Council shunted this critical application into an agenda with several other minor planning issues. Moreover, in the last few days before the meeting – and despite strong urgent written objections from Advearse and individuals to the Chief Executive of Dorset Council – objectors were astonished to learn that the number of members of the public and organisations who would allowed to speak against the application would limited back to just six people, each having a mere 3 minutes to speak: 18 minutes for a 760 home application. Sadly, a councillor’s request there should be a Site Visit was then voted down.

As a result due to the negligence of Dorset Council this development as it stands will over the next decade see real risks and damage to the Bridport and its residents. Our continuing concerns include:

  1. Risk to pedestrians using narrow footpaths on busy roads walking from the development into the town centre given the large increase in traffic that Foundry Lea will bring.
  2. Lunacy of the current plans to allow construction traffic for the building site to go ahead at the same time as the building of the Miles Cross roundabout on the A35. This will greatly increase the risk to road users.
  3. The planners have ignored the Council’s own CLIMATE EMERGFENCY DECLARATION and will allow over 300 homes to be built with gas boilers. There is minimal provision for solar panels.
  4. As yet there are no plans actually agreed with Wessex Water regarding the management of the sewerage and ground water run off which the site will create with increase in discharges of sewage into the sea whilst the prospect of flooding elsewhere in Bridport and West Bay is ever more likely.
  5. At the approval meeting the planners could offer no guarantees from Western Power about whether it can provide for Bridport’s electricity needs once Foundry Lea is underway.
  6. Lack of any plans at all for the employment land promised as part of the mixed use development.

Advearse will be holding a meeting later this month to decide on our next steps and how we can hold the council and developers to meeting their promises to the people of Bridport.

Advearse would like to thank the individuals who have supported our campaign and also Dorset CPRE who have been steadfast in their opposition

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