Weymouth Civic Society
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Planning and Environment Committee
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DORSET COUNCIL LOCAL PLAN CONSULTATION
We responded in some detail to the consultation, which covered the whole range of topics which a Local Plan needs to address. Here we will mention a few issues.
Natural Environment, Landscape, Historic Buildings and Conservation Areas.
Much of the draft Plan contains good and sound policies for the protection of the environment, both in nature conservation and landscape terms, and we have given broad support for these. Additionally we support the measures for the built environment, to safeguard historic buildings and other heritage assets. Our area of interest of Weymouth, Portland and Chickerell has much attractive landscape, both coastal and inland, and many fine buildings, but there are also serious risks of deterioration or harm from unsuitable development.
Like many others, we have questioned the Council’s huge figure of over 30,000 new homes for Dorset, particularly as the latest government guidance stresses that local circumstances should be taken into account – in Dorset’s case surely the beautiful scenery and widespread coverage of protective designations on the land, for both landscape and nature conservation, among other things.
The enormous housing site proposed north of Dorchester and the local opposition to it have been widely reported. In contrast Weymouth has two, much smaller, sites planned – Redlands Farm and land west of Southill, as there are already vast areas here and in Chickerell and Portland in the pipeline. We are not happy with either, but cannot see any better sites to fulfil the allotted requirement for our area. Bearing in mind the local problem of the low wage economy, we drew attention to the lack of genuinely affordable housing.
We support the aspiration in the plan for a good and thriving diversified economy and the need to support economic growth and regeneration, building on the advantages in advanced engineering, tourism and leisure. We also wish to see efforts made to support town centre businesses and enable them to survive and prosper in these new difficult conditions when every high street in the country is under threat.
Weymouth Town Centre.
The town centre needs to be an attractive place to come to. With the decline of large national companies, there is a hope that smaller shops and businesses will come in to replace them. One of our chief concerns in this draft Plan is the reference to most of the public car parks in and near Weymouth town centre as suitable housing development sites, including some of the most popular and busiest such as Harbourside car park on Commercial Road.
We have made strong objections to these plans. Weymouth as a shopping and tourist centre relies on people readily accessing it to sustain its ‘vitality and viability’, especially now when the very survival of town centres is at great risk. Rather than building over these car parks, the aim should be to make them more attractive, enhancing them with good surface treatment and hard and soft landscaping, with the pleasant harbourside walkways alongside. It is also important to maintain provision for maritime uses especially around the harbour, and land for these must not be given over to residential development.
The Western Relief Road
This has once again been decisively omitted from this current draft Plan. Our response has therefore been one of regret that there is to be no safeguarding of this route which is the only viable long term solution to easing the traffic congestion and pollution on the routes to Portland. It seems to be a chicken and egg situation - without funding for the scheme the route should not be planned for and protected, yet without a planned route there would presumably be no funding.
BUILDINGS AT RISK
There is growing concern at the condition of buildings in our area. The whole town centre of Weymouth has been officially designated as ‘at risk’ by Historic England. Of other major buildings, perhaps the most worrying is Brewers Quay, which continues in a state of increasing neglect and with no prospect yet of any viable solution, after the developer went into receivership and the whole property was put back on the market.
On Portland the eyesore of the vast empty shell of the former Royal Naval accommodation block at Castletown gives similar cause for concern. As a Society there is little we can do except encourage suitable remedial action for these and other buildings in a poor state of repair. For the present therefore we have written to the Council enquiring as to the situation with a few individual ones – the Old Assembly Rooms in Trinity Street, the Swan Inn on Dorchester Road at Broadwey, the Guildhall in St Edmund Street, and on Portland the former Naval Accommodation Block at Castletown and St Peter’s Church in Grove Road. We are also separately making enquiries about the problem of Brewers Quay.
WEYMOUTH STATION FORECOURT
Following the public consultation, a planning application for works to the station forecourt and car park was submitted to the Council. While not disagreeing with the proposals, we feel that the result seems to promise at best only marginal improvements which do not justify the expense and disruption that would result. Only taxis and buses will be allowed in the station forecourt, and the front parking circle is to become a pedestrian space, with the present trees and planters all removed to make way for a different layout.
The drop-off spaces, which are currently in an awkward location near the car park entrance, are instead to be repositioned on either side of it, so that manoeuvring will be directly in the access lane to the car park. All private vehicles then will exit via a new opening on to King Street next to the filling station.
Instead of a full traffic interchange there is to be just the one bus bay in front of the station building. A welcome improvement is the widening of the walkway to Jubilee Retail Park to form a landscaped route including the old railway line alongside.
There have been relatively few applications in the last couple of months, and most of these have been of little importance except in their own neighbourhoods.
Quayside Bar & Kitchen - 7 Custom House Quay – Replacement Windows and Doors.
This is a retrospective application – our members watched with concern as each window was removed and totally different replacements installed. The Council immediately contacted the owners and took preliminary steps to deal with the situation, and finally when all was completed we saw a planning application for the entirely new windows and doors. We then made our formal comments to the Council, regretting that these works had been carried out without planning permission.
While not listed, this is an important building in the harbourside scene, and the new windows and doors have resulted in a significant alteration to its appearance, especially in the all important views across the harbour.
This can be a problematic situation for any Council dealing with a planning application when presented with a fait accompli, as in this case.
Land at Putton Lane, Chickerell – Five Houses.
We have objected strongly to this application for five houses on a strip of land surrounded by high hedges next to this rural lane, just beyond the Water Lily Gardens. It seems a clear cut case for refusal, being in an important open gap separating settlements, which is a Wildlife Corridor with nature protection designations, and we fully support Chickerell Town Council in their recommendation to that effect.
There are a number of planning applications to which we have objected, which are still outstanding awaiting decisions after many months from their submission. The most significant one of course is the Portland Incinerator proposal at Castletown, which generated floods of objections. Delays in decision taking can often be the result of the Council waiting for comments from consultees or further information that may be needed from the applicants as background to their proposals.
Illuminated Advertising Boards.
We had made strong objections to two separate proposals for illuminated digital displays on existing advertisement hoardings at Abbotsbury Road and Portland Road at Ferrybridge Cottages. To our disappointment consent has been granted for both of them. We felt that these huge illuminated displays on the hoardings, changing every ten seconds, would be not only out of place in their locality but also a potential hazard to drivers. Indeed we would prefer that they were removed altogether. It is not easy for Councils to refuse consent, however, in view of the very limited grounds upon which they may do so. There is one interesting condition on the Ferrybridge Cottages consent - between 8pm and 8am the advertisement must not be in use and must not emit any illuminance or show any images!
The coronavirus situation brought our Annual Awards arrangements to a halt, with none in 2020. Now with the prospect of further opening up, we are hoping to be able to start up again. While this may not be until the autumn, we are happy to take nominations for the awards at any time from now.
There is a simple basic principle – we are looking for the ‘best contribution to the built environment’. This can cover a range of projects, including restoration of historic buildings, new buildings or larger developments of special quality which respect their surroundings, community based projects which enhance the environment, down to smaller scale features or improvements. Variations in quality are reflected in a range of awards from the Annual Award plaque for an outstanding project, to a simple Letter of Appreciation.
Projects should have been completed from October 2019 onwards. They should be in places visible to a wide range of the public, and should be located within the broad area of Weymouth, Portland and Chickerell, south of the Ridgeway. Do let us know of any suggestions by emailing email@example.com, or writing to 71 Roman Road, Weymouth, DT3 5JH. We don’t need a formal submission, but it would be helpful to let us know any information you have about it and why you believe the particular project is a worthy one for consideration.
Planning News & Notes
March - April 2021
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