Swanage Town Council says no to 150 more homes and gypsy site

In response to Dorset Council’s Local Plan proposal, Swanage Town Council has said it will not back plans for a new housing estate, nor the allocation of land for a gypsy and traveller site in Swanage, but it wants to “leave the door ajar” for a supermarket outside the town centre.

Calling an extraordinary council meeting on Wednesday 10th March 2021 to discuss the Dorset Local Plan, the council agreed its response to the document which aims to guide future planning decisions for Swanage and the whole Dorset Council area until 2038.

Other issues discussed by councillors included affordable housing, second homes, sustainable transport, eco housing, opportunities for business start-ups and its “major concern” of Dorset Council holding a public consultation during lockdown.

Map of the proposed development areas for Swanage

Map of the proposed development areas for Swanage in the Dorset Local Plan

Key concerns

The Dorset Local Plan will supersede the Swanage Local Plan, which was adopted in 2017 following five years of consultation with residents. Swanage Town Council in its draft response document, asks for the Swanage Local Plan to be retained as a supplementary document but adds:

“If the plan cannot be retained then more of its content should be incorporated into the Dorset Local Plan. The Swanage-specific section of the plan (6 pages) is very brief in comparison with that for similar sized towns (e.g. Blandford, Bridport, Sherborne and Wimborne all of which cover between 10 and 20 pages).”

Swanage bus station

The site of the bus station next to the Co-op has been designated as an area where there could be food retail development

Town centre redevelopment

The Dorset Local Plan identifies the area around the Co-op, the Kings Court Business Centre (former Swanage Town Council depot site) and the Post Office sorting office as areas where a third food retail shop could be built and Swanage Town Council supports this but queries whether there is the appetite from developers to build on these sites:

“This policy has been in development for close-on a decade and there is no indication that the relevant parties are actively engaged in taking forward this proposal.”

Councillor Gary Suttle said he wasn’t against the idea of building a supermarket outside the town centre if it meant he didn’t have to drive to Poole to go to an Aldi or Lidl. He said:

“There’s a lot of people that I speak to who would encourage a third supermarket into the town, particularly a budget type, obviously the closer to the town centre the better, but if you completely rule out it going to another part of the town …it will mean that our residents will never be able to obtain that type of shop because of the constraints of the town centre.”

Councillor Mike Bonfield added that he believed in “leaving the door ajar” to talk to food retailers about other sites outside the town centre because otherwise with little available floor space in the town centre, the idea would never happen.

It was agreed to suggest that the Dorset Local Plan should allow for the possibility of suitable supermarket development outside the town centre.

One of the fields in Swanage, where housing in proposed

One of the fields in Swanage next to the allotments, where housing in proposed in the Dorset Local Plan but objected to by Swanage Town Council

Housing expansion

The town council said that it strongly objected to building 150 homes on land to the west of Prospect Allotments. Citing the information that planning permission has already been granted over the last few years for over 300 new homes across Swanage, some of which have been built, are under construction or awaiting development, it said that this was adequate provision for Swanage “given the lack of additional infrastructure, facilities and employment.”

The town council added:

“The council feels that the proposal for 150 new homes on this site, which is currently used as farmland, is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and outside of the existing settlement boundary, is unacceptable for reasons of inadequate infrastructure, public services and transport; landscape impact; potential flooding; and no increase in the supply of employment land.”

One of the fields in Swanage, where housing in proposed

Affordable housing provision

The council’s response to the Dorset Local Plan notes:

“There is no mention of younger people or social housing. It is felt that Swanage needs more genuinely affordable housing for local people, to rent or buy, and that this should be included in the housing need strategy for the town.”

Worth Matravers duck pond

The Purbeck village of Worth Matravers has a high percentage of second homes

Second homes policy

The Dorset Local Plan shies away from proposing a policy that only allows a new home to be sold as a principal home i.e. not a second home. It asks the question of whether this type of policy across the whole of the Dorset Council area would be appropriate when the problem of high second home ownership is only concentrated in certain areas.

The Purbeck Local Plan, which is about to be adopted, does have this policy and Swanage Town Council requests for the policy to be included in the Dorset Local Plan. It adds:

“This is of particular relevance to Swanage, and also many other villages and coastal areas in the county which have the appearance of ‘ghost-towns’/’ghost-streets’ in certain areas, e.g.Worth Matravers. Parts of Swanage have been subject to flat development and have no permanent residents living in them at all; many others have less than 50 percent permanent residents.”

Site of the proposed gypsy site off Ulwell Road

Site of the proposed gypsy and traveller site on the corner of Ulwell Road and Washpond Lane

Gypsy and traveller site allocation

Swanage Town Council rejected the allocation of land on the corner of Ulwell Road and Washpond Lane, which is owned by Dorset Council, as a gypsy and traveller site. It said:

“The town council is not in support of the proposed Washpond Lane site as a large portion of the site is inappropriate for this development, as it is subject to flooding (is in a flood zone). The site was previously rejected for this use following a Dorset-wide public consultation which ran from November 2011 to Feb 2012.”

Councillor Gary Suttle also disclosed that he had received as the Swanage ward representative on Dorset Council, several hundred objections and a petition with 108 signatories from local residents, all who were against the proposal.

Exterior of Swanage Railway Station

Sustainable transport

While supporting Dorset Council’s policy to reduce the impact of traffic impacts, the town council notes its surprise that there is no mention of support for connecting Swanage Railway Station to the main rail network at Wareham. It says:

“In recent years sizeable sums of money have been spent on the onward rail connection of the Swanage Railway to Wareham from its current passenger-carrying terminus at Norden.

“The town council is disappointed to note that there is no mention of continuing Dorset Council support for this important project in the draft Dorset Local Plan, which fits in with Dorset Council’s aims of sustainability of transport modes and sustainable tourism.”

Outside of hairdressers, Serendipity

Commercial Road for start-ups

Towards the end of the meeting, councillor Caroline Finch said that it seemed that the Dorset Local Plan missed out on designating an area of Swanage town centre for entrepreneurial start up businesses and suggested that the Commercial Road area would be ideal for that. She said:

“We’ve already had two of these little shops turn into residential flats and if we lose more of these starter units to residential, it would be a real shame.”

It was resolved to add this suggestion into the council’s response.

Consultation

The deadline for all comments on the consultation of the Dorset Local Plan, including those of Swanage Town Council, is Monday 15th March 2021. The council said it had major concerns regarding the timing of such an important consultation, during a national lockdown period.

It also highlighted how many residents had difficulty finding the information on the website, partly due to the way the content was organised and presented. Others had technical difficulties in completing the comments form. Thus the council proposed:

“A recommendation is made that Dorset Council should consider extending the timescale for the consultation to give residents more time to overcome these issues, or consider delaying the consultation to later in the year when face to face consultation could be undertaken.”

It was agreed that a few tweaks would be made to the draft Swanage Town Council response before being submitted to Dorset Council.

Swanage Peoples'Assembly poster

People’s Assembly on the Dorset Local Plan

A People’s Assembly co-hosted by the Swanage Area Forum, on the Dorset Local Plan and how it affects Swanage is being held on Friday 12th March 2021 at 7.30 pm via Zoom. All are welcome to discuss the issues.

To join, use this link

Or phone in: 0203 901 7895. Meeting ID: 853 9969 4343

Further information

  • Swanage Town Council’s draft response to the Dorset Local Plan is on its website
  • Information about Swanage is on pages 64 to 70 in the Dorset Council Local Plan Options Consultation document – Volume 2 – South Eastern Dorset (January 2021)
  • Gypsy and traveller site allocations are detailed in the Dorset Council Local Plan Options Consultation document – Appendices 1-5 (January 2021)
  • To comment on the Dorset Local Plan, a form is available on the Dorset Council website

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