CONTROVERSIAL plans for a church and a care home off Blackfield Lane at West Moors have been rejected – after a series of votes, by a one-vote margin.

More than 500 had written to object to the outline, or in principle, proposals for the two-hectare farmland site adjacent to protected Dorset heathland and homes.

Extra traffic to and from the site and the potential disturbance from early morning and evening church services were among the reasons for refusal after almost two and a half hours of debate.

An attempt to have a split decision, approving the care home, but rejecting the church failed.

The decision, by Dorset Council’s eastern area planning committee, came after a site visit last week which followed on from a deferment at a previous committee meeting.

Residents had argued that although official figures show few accidents in Station Road and The Avenue, and other nearby roads, councillors could not judge the situation without seeing for themselves, especially at the end or beginning of the school day.

Alderholt councillor David Tooke said the visit had persuaded him of the potential problems, and noise, which could be created by extra traffic to and from the church site and 60-bed nursing home.

He told fellow councillors that he had been driving for half a century, at times doing a thousand miles a week, but some of the roads in the area, he would avoid, if he could because they were narrow, had difficult sight lines at some junctions, and were made worse by parked cars.

Highways officer Steve Savage told the previous meeting that his team had taken the view not to object because a church and nursing home were likely to generate far less traffic than a previous application, rejected two years ago, which included industrial units.

He told this week’s meeting that he and his colleagues could still not support a refusal on highway grounds – based on only three accidents in Station Road in recent years, all of which were caused by the drivers involved and none were close to the Station Road-Avenue junction which residents claimed was dangerous.

Cllr Tooke said that despite the official figures, his experience suggested there would be added problems.

Both the care home, and the church, were proposed to be built on the southern half of the site, the northern side protected from development and kept as an area for nature.

Previous applications for the site have been refused over concerns on the effect on the heathland and traffic problems.

Agent for the developer, Jason Cunningham, had told councillors the site was ideally suited to the proposed uses with a ‘clear and considerable’ need for more care spaces which would generate sixty new jobs.

Wimborne councillor Shane Bartlett told Wednesday’s meeting that he did not dispute the need for more care home beds in the area, but questioned if there was a need for another church on the site, and if there was, would that use be a good one given the proximity to homes.

“The church would have a detrimental effect on residents with additional cars, noise and nuisance. I also question the need for an additional church in the area,” he said.