Here are some frequently asked questions about the plans for the North Dorchester Garden Community.
We believe that the North Dorchester Garden Community is the best option to deliver the homes, employment, community benefits and infrastructure that the council needs to deliver as part of its Local Plan process.
There is a significant housing need both within Dorchester itself, and Dorset, and the North Dorchester Garden Community would not only deliver the homes needed, but deliver that alongside significant benefits that other sites simply cannot deliver.
The area to the north of Dorchester has been identified as a potential location for growth in several of Dorset Council’s draft Local Plans, going as far back as 1987. The new Local Plan has been subject to several consultations already, but it is expected to be in place by 2026. The Consortium intends to bring forward a planning application to support the Local Plan process. Assuming North Dorchester remains the Council’s Preferred Option for growth, it is envisaged that the first people living on the site could be around 2028/2029, with several hundred houses being built each year after that.
‘Affordable Housing’ is a term used to describe homes for rent or sale to people whose needs are not met by the private housing market. It is different to traditional housing that is bought and sold on the open market at market prices.
‘Affordable Housing is often misunderstood, as it comes in a variety of different forms, including:
Discounted housing – these are homes sold at a discounted rate to someone who can prove a connection to the local area
The exact number of affordable homes is yet to be decided by Dorset Council, but it could be around 30-40% of the overall number of properties across the site, encompassing any number of the initiatives outlined above.
Yes – because we plan to deliver a large proportion of our housing as affordable rent through a housing association we can ensure priority is given first to local residents.
A development of this scale means that a multitude of different types of properties can be delivered, including entry-level houses and apartments aimed at the first-time buyer market, homes for growing families, larger properties and adaptable homes for the later stages of life. The North Dorchester Garden Community will provide variety and choice to the people of Dorchester, helping to make owning a home more attainable. The concentration of growth means more services provided in the development and many more in Dorchester itself. This means that a second car or indeed any car at all, may not be needed. Combined with modern, energy efficient construction, future residents can spend more on their housing and not their bills.
There are several financial initiatives available, including:
The objective is to provide a variety of new homes, at a wide range of price points to suit different needs and financial situations. This is not ‘affordable housing’, but it does make buying a home more attainable for many people. None of these schemes are available to people buying existing homes when they are put up for sale.
Dorset Council’s recent study on homeownership found that less than 2% of the housing stock in Dorchester is used as a second home. Second homeownership in Dorset tends to be concentrated around coastal areas and within smaller, desirable villages. The main housing concern in Dorchester is the lack of housing opportunities for younger people and those on modest incomes, such as key workers, not homes being purchased by second homeowners.
The plans are still in their early stages, but the objective is to provide a diverse mix of homes to suit all budgets and all stages of life. It is in our interest to create a high-quality development, inspired by local character, where people will want to live.
It is anticipated that a considerable proportion of the new homes would be available for rent, and owned and operated by Grainger plc, the UK's largest listed residential landlord and a market leader in the private rented sector.
Both Grainger and Charles Church pride themselves on delivering well designed and quality homes. This commitment will be backed up by design guidance, to ensure that the homes will be designed with the architectural traditions of historic Dorchester at their heart, complementing the town and not clashing with it.
Central to the proposals for North Dorchester is a new Northern Bypass, which will tie together the A35 and A37 and other northern routes, particularly the A352 and C12 to Sherborne. This new road will enable traffic moving east/north or west/north to avoid the southern bypass and the High Street, relieving congestion on these routes.
Furthermore, by placing homes near places of employment, as well as other key services and community centres, car usage will be significantly reduced. We will ensure our plans meet the approval of both Dorset Council and Highways England.
This could be done in two ways: delivered as part of the development and/or through financial contributions. As part of the process of granting planning permission, a developer is legally obliged to make a financial contribution towards additional infrastructure. Such payments are known as ‘developer contributions’ and are regularly required for facilities such as new roads.
Central to the North Dorchester proposals is correcting the imbalance currently between homes and jobs. At the moment, many people have to travel in and out of Dorchester to travel to work. By correcting this imbalance – and allowing people to live near where they work – the impact on the public transport network will be reduced. This will lead to residents able to live more sustainable lives, travelling less long distances and walking and cycling more.
Additional bus routes and services will be central to the proposals as well, encouraging sustainable travel.
We will provide sufficient parking provision within the residential areas of the North Dorchester Garden Community, as well as within the employment and community areas. We will also be encouraging sustainable travel options, including cycling and walking, to minimise any impact on parking in the town.
Sadly, the River Frome SSSI is already in an unfavourable condition, which we are planning to improve. By re-wilding the Frome Valley as part of our plans, the area won’t be as intensively manged, and more protections will be put in place.
We will seek the approval of Natural England and the Environment Agency for our proposals.
No. As part of our proposals, we have to put forward a strategy for surface water drainage, which has to be in turn signed off by the Environment Agency. Our proposals will lead to no changes to flood prevention or flood storage and will not worsen existing conditions.
No, the water meadows are protected from development. Access to the water meadows is currently limited, with a few footpaths crisscrossing the area. We intend to open up the water meadows for everyone to enjoy, with a network of accessible pathways or broadwalks for walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users, pushchairs and mobility scooters. We will also introduce schemes to allow more ecology to flourish in and around the river.
At the moment, the vast majority of the area which will be developed is intensively farmed agricultural land, which is not good for the preservation of wildlife. By creating a new habitat through the Frome Valley Country Park and nature reserve, we will be significantly improving the situation for local wildlife, allowing public access, and safeguarding it in perpetuity.
A new country park and nature reserve forms a key part of the North Dorchester Garden Community. It will comprise 200 acres of the land, which is nearly seven times the size of the Great Field at Poundbury.
The system of checks and balances in place for development of this scale means that we will not compromise the quality of local drinking water. Our infrastructure experts are working with Wessex Water and the Environment Agency to carefully plan the drainage system and these technical discussions will continue throughout the duration of the project, from planning through to implementation.
This is a problem that already exists and needs to be addressed due to the growing and aging population of Dorchester and Dorset. We are planning to include a medical centre as part of the proposal and are talking to the NHS about the best way to deliver medical services for the North Dorchester Garden Community.
No, as our plans include a three tier education campus to expand the provision of education in Dorchester.
Dorset Council is responsible for school planning. This includes ensuring that there are the right number of school places in the right locations, now and in the future. We are working closely with the Council to make sure that our plans deliver the school places the area needs and that we deliver the schools as early as possible.
There is no other viable solution to solving the education challenges presented by a growing population as smaller sites would not be able to provide new schools.
Our plans will not only allow visitors to view the landscape which inspired Thomas Hardy, but we’re also proposing a visitor centre to encourage tourism. There are no assets from Hardy’s works within our site and we are hoping to link up the Hardy Trail through the Country Park to allow tourists to access the water meadows and local landscape easily.
Yes, at the appropriate time we will be holding a public consultation – both in person and online – so that local residents and anyone else interested in the plans can learn about the plans, ask any questions they may have and give us their feedback. In the interim, we are very happy to meet with any interested groups to discuss our plans.