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Plans for a housing estate in the field in the background facing Gillingham could be challenged in the High Court.

Shaftesbury Town Council is to hire a barrister to challenge a government inspector’s decision to allow a housing development on the slopes of the town facing Gillingham.

The decision, that apparently took both Dorset Council and the town council by surprise, overturned an earlier inspector’s decision to refuse the application.

Christchurch-based developer Nylor Homes Ltd appealed that decision and submitted a new plan for 23 ‘affordable’ houses at Enmore Court beside the Gillingham-Shaftesbury road.

That plan, submitted in May 2020, went to another inspector after Dorset Council failed to decide on the application within the legal time limit. The second inspector allowed the revised plan last month.

But town councillors said this week they considered the latest decision to be flawed because it not only goes against Dorset Council’s local plan but also the town’s recently adopted neighbourhood plan. This attempts to limit building on the town’s historic slopes and on land outside the agreed settlement boundary.

Councillor Tim Cook, who represents Shaftesbury on Dorset Council as well as sits on the town council, told councillors that Dorset Council’s planning officers were ‘as angry about the inspector’s decision as the town council.’

Councillors agreed it appeared that the inspector had only allowed the appeal because the developer had stipulated ‘affordable’ housing but they claimed it would then go on to build ‘anything but affordable.’

Concern was expressed that breaching the settlement boundary was ‘the thin end of the wedge’ that would eventually see housing development spread all the way to Gillingham.

The council agreed to spend up to £2,500 for a leading planning barrister to advise it on the council’s chances of success if it challenged the government inspector’s decision in the High Court.

Councillors were told an opinion had to be registered with the High Court by 21 October.

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