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DETAILED plans for 40 affordable homes on the site of the former North Dorset District Council headquarters Nordon, which will follow the demolition of the Edwardian villa built for brewery chief George Woodhouse at the turn of the 20th century, have finally been given the go-ahead by Dorset Council.


The application by Aster Housing was approved in accordance with the recommendation of case officer Robert Lennis at Dorset Council’s Northern Planning committee meeting on December 15.


It had been revised only slightly after being submitted in June last year following finalisation in April of the outline approval given in February 2019 by North Dorset District Council.


Committee chairman Sherry Jespersen stressed that they could not revisit that outline approval, despite concerns that only 12 of the units were legally required to be affordable, saying the council was as confident as it could be that Aster would stick to their agreement to provide 40.


Mr Lennis said the redesign had adequately addressed concerns, and there would be no harm to the conservation area in addition to that which would result from the already approved demolition of Nordon.


Ward member Councillor Byron Quayle said he would refrain from talking about the petition signed by 2000 people against the development and the shameful way North Dorset came to its decision, but urged councillors to reject what was overdevelopment with adverse impact on the townscape.

“We are not Nimbies, but this is the wrong development here,” he said.


Retired architect John Turnbull feared the 40 affordable homes promised were unlikely to materialise, saying: “Within a very short space of time Aster will be submitting an application to remove the affordability of the remaining 28 units on the basis that the scheme is uneconomically viable, and these 28 units will become open market houses.”


He also queried the affordability of shared equity provision in the light of the Covid pandemic which had made it impossible for many people to raise a deposit, obtain a mortgage and pay the rent on part of a shared ownership dwelling.


There were objections from Blandford Town Council, which reaffirmed its earlier objection to the detailed application, saying that the reduction in the enforceable affordable housing from 100 to 40 per cent significantly reduced the reason and justification for damaging the Conservation Area.


They also called for the highest modern and energy efficient specifications, and said the design should better reflect the character of other buildings the Victorian Almshouses opposite at Barnes Homes and the predominantly Victorian/Edwardian homes on the eastern side of Salisbury Road.


A statement from Blandford & District Civic Society, which launched the petition against the demolition and redevelopment, was circulated to councillors saying that changes to the design, described by the conservation officer as ‘tokenistic’, had persuaded him to withdraw his objection, but were not an adequate response to the loss of “a significant part of the Blandford Conservation Area with overdevelopment in pursuit of ‘so-called ‘affordable’ homes which may not, in the final analysis, be affordable at all.”


After much discussion, Councillor Belinda Ridout proposed approval, seconded by Council Brian Heatley, which was accepted by five votes to three. Councillor Val Pothecary commented: “This was always going to be a difficult one given the background. I have heard ‘acceptable’ a number of times during this debate – it’s not wonderful, it’s not great, it’s acceptable. I am disappointed that there are not more elements of significance and character, but you have good design with an affordable legacy.”