Shaftesbury Civic Society has launched a last-ditch attempt to stop the sale of the town’s cattle market site to a supermarket by calling on its town council to immediately register the site ‘as an asset of community value’ under the 2011 Localism Act.
The society said that if the town council doesn’t it will.
Under the act any land registered as having ‘community value’ cannot be sold without full consultation with the community affected. The effect of this would be to delay any development until the consultation had taken place.
But the society’s outspoken call – that comes three days after North Dorset District Council’s cabinet decided to sell the site to an unnamed major supermarket chain, rumoured to be Lidl – looks set to be putting it on a direct collision course with the council who appear to be supporting the sale.
Civic society chairman Mike Madgwick said: ‘We are dismayed that such a strategically important site at the heart of our town has apparently been sold with no communication with our expanding community.
‘The decision is looking like a shockingly bad example of how Localism is failing us. Our district councillors have been notable by their absence from the local stage and not one jot of proactive communication has seemingly reached local groups and people.’
Former town councillor Mr Madgwick added that his society ‘did not presume to know the right answer for this site’ but his members felt they had seen ‘zero evidence’ of ‘proper consideration of the local community’s needs’ being made by NDDC before the decision to sell to a supermarket.
‘This whole process has the hallmarks of being a series of disconnected piecemeal reactions by a distant group of decision-makers more focussed on generating enough money to see through countywide local government changes and the inevitable funding of one-off redundancy payments than helping this growing town’s community.
‘We believe that until the people of Shaftesbury have been allowed to speak on the best way forward the site must be immediately registered as an asset of community value.’
He said if the town council did not do it the society would.
But Shaftesbury’s mayor Councillor John Lewer, who has less than a week left in office, said: ‘The sale of the Cattle Market should spell positive outcomes for Shaftesbury, including providing more local, flexible jobs and providing Shaftesbury with more to offer both residents and visitors alike.
‘For me, the most important benefit which should come from the re-development of this site will be adequate car-parking. The need for both short- and long-stay parking is widely recognised, and the town council will present its case, with evidence, at the appropriate time.
‘I hope also that the funds raised from the sale will be spent in Shaftesbury.’
Town clerk Claire Commons confirmed that the Town Council will be discussing the sale of the cattle market site at the annual meeting next week and ‘how to maximise the benefit for the town’.
She said the discussion will focus ‘on how, through collaboration and engagement, the town can put forward the requirements of the town, supported by evidence and data.’
She added she hoped that the Civic Society ‘will be engaged with that process.’
The annual meeting, on 1 May, will also elect a new mayor and deputy for Shaftesbury for the coming year.