Concerns over homes plan - the latest attempt to redevelop Dorchester Prison site

Dorchester Prison  - proposed - south west courtyard Picture courtesy of City & Country
Dorchester Prison - proposed - south west courtyard Picture courtesy of City & Country

Opposition is mounting over the latest attempt to bring housing to the Dorchester Prison site.

Residents say a proposal to effectively remove one footpath close to the narrow entrance to North Square will add to pedestrian danger and breach disability rules.

There is also anger that the latest proposals may be decided by a planning officer rather than come before an area planning committee made up of councillors, although a final decision on this has yet to be made.

Permission for up to 185 homes on the five-acre town centre site was granted in 2016 and then amended in 2017 but, other than minor changes to secure the site, building work never started.

The new proposals are for 133 new homes, none classed as “affordable”, with 60 homes created by converting prison buildings, an increase overall from 185 to 193 homes.

Of the new build homes 41 are proposed to be one-bed; 83 two-bed and 9 three-bed – with car parking spaces increasing from the current 43 to 195 and the addition of 104 cycle parking spaces. The proposals also allow for the demolition of some buildings.

Developers City and Country bought the prison site for £3.25 million following its closure in 2013. Since then it has been used for adventure games, ghost tours and community events including a recently started monthly market. It was also used for filming some sequences in the latest ‘Luther’ series starring Idris Elba.

Nearby resident Mrs Sarah Wilkinson, has written to the Dorset Council head of highways, Jack Wiltshire, pointing out that the proposals for The Bow, by cutting back on one pavement to make the road slightly wider, will not comply with safety guidelines or equalities legislation.

She claims that the measurement presented to councillors when the first planning application was passed were incorrect.

She has likened using The Bow/North Square junction, the only entrance available, as trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot.

“It’s just unsuitable for so many homes and if anyone thinks people will be able to cross the road, and then cross again at this junction in safety, to get to the remaining pavement, they should think again,” she said.

Dorchester town councillors have also expressed concerns over some aspects of the proposals and have asked for City and Country to stage a public exhibition and address its planning and environment committee to explain the details of some elements of the latest plans.