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The company looking to develop 960 homes at the core of Gillingham’s massive Southern Extension residential property scheme is hoping to apply for outline planning permission by next month. And Andrew Hodgson, director, strategic land at Welback Land, says that if all goes well the first tranche of a hundred or more homes could be ready for the new residents to move in within around two years.

Mr Hodgson was speaking at a public consultation at RiversMeet leisure centre in Gillingham last month to show residents the updated plans for the central part of the Southern Extension that is under Welbeck Land’s control – the rest is in the hands of builders and developers CG Fry and Taylor Wimpey. Around 200 local people turned out to see the plans.

‘There was a lot of constructive comments made and we will be reflecting on these over the coming weeks as we move towards a planning application,’ said Mr Hodgson. ‘I did get the impression that people now want to see action on bringing forward a high quality, well thought out scheme that delivers more than just housing. Our application will be an important milestone to achieving this.’

He said they were aware that other developers and builders were ‘circling’, looking to put in speculative applications such as the possible plans by Persimmon to build 150 homes at Bay Lane, Gillingham, an area outside the local plan. These could, he said, mean Welbeck having to foot a ‘disproportionate’ amount of the infrastructure bill in the town.

‘There’s not much we can do about that,’ he said, admitting that the pre-application process so far have taken longer than they would have liked. But he added that he was ‘relatively confident’ about the immediate prospects for the development. ‘Housing is cyclical and if you speak to some of the pessimists in London they are already wondering when the next downturn is going to be. This is a big site, it needs a lot of money up front so from that point of view it may not come forward quite as quickly as people want,’ he said.

‘But at the same time the key credentials in Gillingham are relatively strong,  it has a train station, good schools so I think it’s got a good if not better chance than most sites in the general North Dorset area.’

Gillingham councillor David Walsh who is Portfolio holder for planning at North Dorset District Council, said the pre-application consultation was a ‘flagship day’ and said he was delighted that so many people had turned up to see plans that the local people themselves had helped formulate through earlier consultations.

‘Now they went to see if the fruits of all their hard work is actually going to be delivered and I believe it is,’ said Councillor Walsh.

In all some 1,800 homes are earmarked to be built as part of the Southern Extension.

Development layout
At the consultation the promoters had set out their ideas of how the new development will look – and the kind of facilities it will contain. These include:

Southern Extension Gillingham
Southern Extension proposed layout

Shared surface high street
Village market square
Convenience store
Health facility on ground floor with
independent living or extra care
facility for the elderly, above
Independent living or extra care
facility for the elderly
Cafe on the ground floor with
residential units above
Small retail units on the ground floor
with residential units above
Multifunctional community hall
Sports pitches
Sports pavilion with changing facilities
Residential apartments
Pedestrian/cycle connections

Different sections of the development will have different types of layout and settings. On the current plans these include:
Newhouse Green: Low density rural housing
Lodden Meadow : Informal wetland with meadow planting
Meadow Brook : Semi-rural housing overlooking the River Lodden and meadows
Church View: Housing framing views to St Mary’s Church
Hawthorn Crescent: Medium density housing structured around existing hedgerows
Duncliffe View: Semi-formal housing with expansive views of Duncliffe Wood
Village Core: Higher density and more formal housing around the Local Centre and sport pitches

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