HUNDREDS of East Dorset residents marched on the Furzehill council offices last night in protest at the controversial core strategy.

Around 200 angry people from West Parley, Verwood, Colehill, Corfe Mullen, Wimborne and Ferndown walked from the Stocks Inn to the council offices.

The protesters carried a glowing coffin the size of a car, as well as jam jar tea lights and placards, and were led by a retired funeral director from West Parley in full regalia, followed by the Grim Reaper.

West Parley parish councillor Kenny Pearce, who helped to organise the march, said the props illustrated the “death of democracy” in East Dorset.

“It has gone across the villages – people are angry about what is being done,” he said.

“The district council isn’t listening to us. We are being patronised and talked down to.”

Although councillors were not making the final decision on the strategy at the meeting, arguments for and against the document were given last night.

Thousands have now responded to the document, which outlines potential developments in housing, employment and transport over the next 15 years.

The chair of West Parley Residents’ Association, Richard Heaslip, said: “The public have been gagged for nearly three years while the district council fermented these ill-conceived plans, which will see massive housing estates dumped and squeezed into sensitive character-rich areas, with little additional amenities, roads or infrastructure support.”

However, leader of the council, Cllr Spencer Flower, has warned East Dorset residents not to listen to the “vocal minority” who did not want any housing in their location.

Lesley White, of West Parley said: “The villages can’t cope with this amount of housing. I feel really strongly about this. My husband and I worked hard all our lives to buy our home here and we don’t want to move.”

John Cullen of West Parley said: “We don’t mind 100 houses, but 520 for the village is excessive. They’re going to be built under the flightpath. Who will buy them? It’s terrible.”

Susan Davies of Colehill said: “It’s frustrating. No one feels the council is listening to us. This is not a democracy.”

Della Edward of West Parley said: “It’s sneaky. They’re trying to keep us all out of the process.”