Campaigners trying to stop 3,500 new homes being built on unspoilt downland near Dorchester are demanding councillors look instead at plans to create a new town based on Crossways.
Protesters from Save The Area North of Dorchester (STAND) say the bid by Woodsford Farms to build 4,000 new homes at Crossways, much of it on ‘brownfield’ land, makes more sense – though villagers oppose the idea.
STAND argues the Crossways bid, which would include a new railway station, supermarket, sports and community facilities, doctor’s surgery, two primary schools and a secondary school, would turn the village into a viable small town.
Crossways, built partly on the site of the former RAF Warmwell airfield (see Books, p30), has suffered from piecemeal development over the years, but a report by Nexus Planning for Woodsford Farms says the new proposals include all the necessary infrastructure.
Roughly a third of the development would be ‘affordable’ homes, while more than 60% of the site – some 660 acres – would be open space.
The proposal includes moving Moreton Station to a new site that is more central to Crossways with better parking facilities, and replacing two level crossings in the area with a bridge.
The site spans more than 1,000 acres north of the railway line at Crossways. Much of the area is designated for mineral extraction, and there is a quarry on the western edge.
As quarrying work spreads east, the ground would be landscaped and incorporated into the development.
The grade I-listed, 14th century Woodsford Castle lies just north of the site but would be buffered by open space.
This week STAND presented a question to a full meeting of West Dorset’s District Council, asking: “Does the portfolio holder for planning agree that the Upper Woodsford development proposal offers a more viable, better connected and sustainable housing scheme than the North of Dorchester development proposal, and that it offers less likelihood of damage to our environment, cultural landscape and tourist industry?”
STAND says the alternative plans put forward to build 3,500 homes on the downs north of the water meadows at Dorchester would be an act of desecration that would destroy the setting of the town – a landscape described vividly by Thomas Hardy in The Mayor of Casterbridge as “like a chess board on a green table-cloth”.
The 300-page report by Nexus Planning on the Crossways proposal says, “By virtue of Upper Woodsford’s highly sustainable location along the rail corridor it provides future residents with convenient access to 80% of Dorset’s jobs, and the new settlement will therefore benefit the existing employers within the county. Overall, Upper Woodsford will have a strong positive effect on the economy.”
However, Crossway Parish Council chairman Cllr Andrew Brewer warned a council meeting the village risked being a “dumping ground” for local housing schemes.
He told the Dorset Echo: “Developers seem to think they can get away with whatever they want here. We have taken enough developments over the years and we don’t want more without substantial improvements in our infrastructure.”