After being delayed for more than a year by a judicial review challenging what’s set to be the biggest ever development on an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), Vearse Farm land has now gone up for sale to building companies. Builders are invited to submit bids by noon on 15 July for all or parcels of land on the site.
A long delay is, however, anticipated before any of the 760+ houses and industrial units etc are built, as important infrastructure work has to be designed and completed before any properties can be occupied. Hallam Land Management, the company behind the project, were forced to delay this work for 12 months while ADVEARSE’s legal challenge to the planning permission, officially granted in May 2019, was ongoing.
The overwhelming opposition to the development, backed by the Dorset Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), continues, however. Just last week Jeremy Pope, heritage interest representative on the AONB Partnership Board, trustee of the County Museum and of the Jurassic Coast Trust, wrote to local MP Chris Loder to say that ‘the decision to grant planning for the Vearse Farm project is completely at odds with the whole protection which AONB status is meant to confer … and will dramatically and adversely affect Bridport itself.’ While acknowledging ‘the need to increase housing capacity in the county’, he said, ‘to be honest I am more than a little sceptical that the promised affordable housing content will ever be fulfilled if past experience is anything to go by’, and went on to ask the MP if there was anything could be done to see if the scheme could ‘at least be moderated or, better still, scrapped.’
In the meantime, ADVEARSE has now reluctantly 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. The campaign group will also be closely examining aspects of the development that do not appear to meet legal requirements, including pedestrian safety.
ADVEARSE Chair Barry Bates said ‘We will fight any attempt to back track on developer and council commitments and, with our wide-spread support, will not hesitate from taking legal action where appropriate. While the impact of this development will undoubtedly change Bridport beyond recognition, we hope now to be able to work closely with the Town Council and relevant community groups to maximise the benefits to residents and to try to minimise as far as possible the harm the development is able to inflict on the culture and heritage of our town and countryside.’ <ENDS>