DORSET councillors claim proposals for more than 100 extra homes on the edge of a north Dorset village would overwhelm the community and ruin its rural character.

Dorset Council’s northern area planning committee has rejected an outline application for up to 114 homes on a triangular site south of Lower Road, Stalbridge.

Cllr Graham Carr Jones, ward councillor for the area, says the debate illustrates how the failure to meet government land supply targets has put the area at the mercy of developers, rather than local people.

Although councillors voted unanimously against the proposal in principal the decision is already out of their hands and will be decided by a planning inspector at a hearing expected to be held in April.

Land Value Alliances, which has also been active in the Dorchester area, had already appealed the application on the grounds that Dorset Council had taken too long to come to a conclusion. The business claims the development will provide much-needed homes, 40% of which would be ‘affordable’ together with land for local employment.

Bournemouth Echo: Photo showing the Stalbridge site (on the left) with other planned developments markedPhoto showing the Stalbridge site (on the left) with other planned developments marked

The 5.67-hectare farm site had been put forward for up to 114 homes and 2,000 square metres of employment space for light industrial and retail uses.

Councillors heard that with other, nearby developments, already agreed or proposed, Stalbridge could be facing a massive increase in its population – some claim of up to 50 per cent in the coming years.

The Tuesday online planning meeting heard that Stalbridge has had no GP surgery for two years, few shops, a poor bus service and, according to Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, no need for the number of houses the developers are proposing.

Objections included the density of the development, 37 homes per hectare, which was described by Cllr Les Fry as being more suitable for a large town than a country village, and more than other schemes nearby which vary from 18 to 30 per hectare.

Cllr Carr-Jones said the scheme alone would increase housing in Stalbridge by 18 per cent and, with the other schemes, result in a 27% increase in homes.

“We do not wish to see Stalbridge turned into a vast, ghastly, housing estate where there is little neighbourhood interaction and the heart of the community and the spirit of the town stolen from us for profit ,” he said.

Senior planning officer Robert Lennis admitted that with only a 3.3 year supply of land for housing in the north Dorset area, compared to the Government target of 5 years, the shortfall would favour development: “The further you get away from the five-year mark the more the balance tips in favour of applications like these where they are adjacent, of near, to a sustainable village or town - and that has to be given considerable weight in the face of a lack of a five-year housing land supply,” he said.

The committee heard that the council would be unlikey to be able to defend a refusal on landscape or highway grounds, despite pleas from several residents that it should object along those lines.

The town council had argued that the area has seen double the suggested housing growth in the last decade and that the rate of current increase is not sustainable and would harm the character of the town.