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Dorset CouncilThe draft Local Plan for Dorset designates a field off Common Mead Lane in Gillingham where a company is hoping to build 85 new homes as a ‘preferred’ site for development.

In December Fairfax Properties applied for planning permission to build the houses on the site, which is behind The Mellowes care home and which is a popular place for walkers and local residents.

Opponents of the scheme say it would destroy a valuable open space, ride roughshod over the Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan which designates the field as an area of green space, and increase traffic levels, making Common Mead Lane a dangerous road.

But the draft Local Plan – which once adopted is the blueprint for planning decisions and development in Dorset – suggests the plot could ‘fulfil a shorter-term need’ for housing, though it suggests 70 homes are  suitable for the location, not the 85 that Fairfax wants to construct.

‘With appropriate design and landscaping, development on this site would have minimal adverse impact on the surrounding landscape,’ says the draft document, which is currently open for public consultation.

Acknowledging the fact that the town’s Neighbourhood Plan earmarks the field as ‘an area of search for new green space provision’ the draft Local Plan says that the ‘public rights of way crossing through the site … will need to be incorporated into any design’.

It continues: ‘Development of the area should therefore help to deliver the aspirations of the neighbourhood plan and helping to facilitate improved public access to the countryside.

‘Tree planting should be provided along the northern edge to screen views from the Wyke conservation area. Formal public open space and play facilities should be provided on site.’

The plan also suggests that opportunities to create allotments or sports pitches ‘should be considered’.

The consultation document calls for public views on the ‘allocation’ of this site for housing, and asks whether there are any ‘community infrastructure needs within the area that should be considered’.

Fairfax field Gillingham
The field off Common Mead Lane as it looks in the spring.

The document also refers to the long-term development potential of land west of Peacemarsh – between Wyke and Milton-on-Stour – which ‘has the capacity to deliver around 600 new homes ‘ and which could also potentially include a new cemetery, sports pitches and allotments.

However, the draft plan notes the ‘concerns about the delivery rate of housing in Gillingham with a significant number of new homes already planned for the town’. Any development west of Peacemarsh would thus have to be ‘phased’ so as not to ‘inhibit but to complement the delivery of the southern extension and other sites around the town’. This, it says, could take any such scheme beyond the scope of the Local Plan, which runs until 2038.

On the town centre, the draft plan notes that while Gillingham is the ‘largest town in the Northern Dorset’ area, its ‘range of shops and services remain relatively limited’.

The documents states: ‘As the town grows, it is important that the vitality and viability of the town centre improves to ensure it remains attractive and to avoid the need for residents to travel further afield.’

The plan refers to ideas within the town to regenerate the Station Rad area. But it points out: ‘Numerous businesses operate in the Station Road area and they need to be successfully relocated before the area can be redeveloped.’

For this regeneration to be successful, individual schemes need to be ‘compatible with the vision for the wider area’, it says, before concluding: ‘For this reason, a masterplan outlining how the area will change is needed.’

Full details about the plan and how to submit a comment can be be found here.

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