A bid to build a huge new retail park on the site of Dorchester’s historic charter market has been quietly dropped by councillors.

But the market still looks set to be moved – with plans drawn up to relocate it to the Waitrose end of the Charles Street car park.


How the new market might look

The move is part of a new ‘masterplan’ for Dorchester, which aims to create a strategy for tourism, culture and transport in the town.

The retail park scheme was originally part of the plan, but met strong opposition for both being out of date, with so many ‘bricks-and-mortar’ retailers going to the wall, and its possible impact on the archaeology of the site.

A council report said there was no way of predicting the way high-street retailing would evolve, and whether more big names could close or shut down outlets. There was also a risk, if some stores moved out of the town centre to a new retail park, of existing shop units being left empty.


One of the possible layouts for the new market


“Officers have been working with developers over the past months to evaluate options for the creation of a large retail development on the Fairfield site,” said a council spokesman.

“As well as looking at various financial options, officers commissioned a review of the likely impact of such a development on the existing core retail area.

“Officers were unable to establish a financial model for this development that they could recommend to members, and it was agreed not to progress a development on Fairfield at this time.”

People have also expressed concern that moving the market could have a negative impact.

However, the new scheme set out by West Dorset District Council would see the market moved to the Charles Street area – where it was held in times past.

“The historic charter market has been an important aspect of town life for hundreds of years. It is still widely considered an important community asset. But the financial picture is weak, and we have been looking various ways to tackle the decline in fortunes,” said a council spokesman.

“This would aim to revitalise the market and strengthen its contribution to the vibrancy of the town centre.”

Members have agreed to use the existing budget to move forward with market designs and consultation on the project.


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