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MORE than 12 months after North Dorset District Council’s planning committee agreed to approve outline plans for the demolition of the council’s former headquarters at Nordon in Salisbury Road to build 40 affordable homes, the outline approval has been issued by Dorset Council.

Three former town mayors have reacted to the news with disappointment.

Town councillor Steve Hitchings said: “This is a very sad day for Blandford as unfortunately, on two occasions this town has been failed by some of its district councillors, the consequences of which will be with us for a lot longer than I and they will be.”

John Turnbull, who has campaigned against the approval, noted the timing of the issue of approval in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, and that there is no restriction on the type of affordable homes to be provided or for whom.

And town councillor Roger Carter, chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan group, said: “I am deeply saddened by this decision. NDDC and now DC have gone ahead with this for what appears to be purely financial reasons, despite considerable local opposition and against professional and expert advice.”

He said he had asked for the town council’s nomination for the inclusion of Nordon as a community asset to be strengthened in line with the Neighbourhood Plan, whose progress towards referendum has been halted by the Covid-19 restrictions.

The nomination describes the site as ideally suited to become a hub for a variety of activities: conferences, meetings, educational uses, a possible start–up point for office based local business provision and an outreach medical hub.

He said: “If town council services were moved there it would relieve pressure on current office space and allow for expansion of the town council as the settlement grows and extra staff are required. As a community centre, the building could serve the whole area, and the 40+ mature trees are not only pleasing from all directions, but help the parish to reduce its carbon footprint. Imaginative garden landscaping could form a focus for locals and visitors to wander and relax, increasing community well-being.”

Over 2000 people have now signed Blandford & District Civic Society’s petition against the proposal by Aster Homes and the outline application which details only the access and layout for the erection of 40 affordable homes after demolishing all existing buildings on the site. Aster have three years to submit further applications covering the detail of the proposal which need to be approved by the local planning authority before development can begin.

No demolition can take place until further plans have been approved and a contract has been let for the redevelopment, “to avoid any temporary and/or long term effects of an active construction site being located in the conservation area for an extended period of time”.

Those plans include an agreed scheme for the reuse of materials from the site, and before construction can begin, details have to be agreed on surface water management, disposal of foul water drainage, the highway layout, turning and parking areas, the management of construction traffic and protection of trees and hedges being retained so that they are not damaged before or during the construction works.

April 2020