Planning is supposed to help communities improve their environment, providing housing and infrastructure that is in keeping with the needs of the local community.
Currently Alderholt is facing a huge challenge, following the mis-guided proposals by the old East Dorset District Council to double or possibly treble the size of the village.
These proposals are mis-guided for several reasons :
Transport Infrastructure –
Alderholt is located on the north east edge of the District and has been identified as a Rural Service Centre (Draft Policy 3.2). The village has a number of surrounding isolated houses together with some smaller villages and hamlets. Alderholt has a small Co-Op convenience store, a second hand baby clothes shop, one pub, one social club, and a part-time doctors surgery (a part of the Fordingbridge practice). It also has a motor repair garage. Other than these facilities there is no real service centre here, and residents in the outlying areas tend to use Fordingbridge, Verwood, and Ringwood for most facilities – as indeed do Alderholt residents.
The roads connecting Alderholt to these larger towns are very poor and constricted in places and would be extremely expensive to improve – and indeed the roads to Fordingbridge and Ringwood are mostly within Hampshire, rather than Dorset.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) recently revised by the Government (2018) requires in Para 102 that: “Transport issues should be considered from the earliest stages of plan-making and development proposals…” No such issues have as yet been considered, rather they are in progress. They should have been done as a pre-requisite, before drafting the plan. Para 103 also requires that: “Significant development should be focused on locations which are or can be made sustainable, through limiting the need to travel and offering a genuine choice of transport modes.”
There are currently very limited options for employment within Alderholt, and the Plan does not seek to address this by providing any workshops or commercial premises as part of the development. Mention has been made of live/work accommodation, but it must be apparent that this would be of use in only a very limited number of cases.
Alderholt has a First School, but currently no provision for older children. The natural Dorset Pyramid would then send children to Cranborne Middle School and then on to QE at Wimborne. Both of these later stages involve children being bussed several miles every day.
Many of our children are actually attending Fordingbridge or Downlands for their primary education, and entering the Burgate Pyramid rather than QE for easier travel.
Schools in Fordingbridge will be affected by the development of Alderholt, combined with planned developments in Fordingbridge itself and other surrounding locations. These, in combination, will undoubtedly increase demand for school places in Fordingbridge, which will presumably cater for its Hampshire catchment first – potentially denying this option to Aderholt residents.
The Local plan offers simply the vague wording that: “The impact of new development on education provision in Alderholt is an important consideration. The impact on education provision of potential new sites identified in this Local Plan review is being assessed. Any new housing allocations at Alderholt would be required to make provision for new facilities or provide developer contributions to enhance provision locally.”
Verbally we have been told that this might involve enlarging St James. There is also the long standing issue of building an Upper School in Verwood – which has being a topic of discussion the last quarter century, without resolution.
Without concrete proposals being made then this seems to be unsatisfactory, merely kicking the issue into the long grass. There is no reason to suppose that anything will actually be done.
Most residents in Aderholt use the Fordingbridge practice, though a few do use Cranborne, Verwood and 6d Handley. Fordingbridge is of course a Hampshire based practice, whilst (I understand) 6d Handley has transferred to Wiltshire.
Fordingbridge practice is currently under some strain, being unable to attract as many GPs as it ideally needs. If this development in Alderholt goes ahead, along with the planned growth in Fordingbridge itself, then the practice may be unable to cope with the numbers. Its possible that under such circumstances it would close its doors to new out of county (ie none Hampshire) patients.
Currently the service offered by Fordingbridge is – whilst under some strain, as are most NHS facilities – comprehensive, with access to several GPs if your own doctor is unavailable, and there are excellent nurse facilities, with Nurse Practitioners on site.
Even if there is a full time Practice created in Alderholt, in the event that the developments go ahead, this will inevitably be a much smaller organisation, with far fewer Doctors and limited access to Nurse Practitioners. I do not believe that Alderholt residents will be able to get as good service as we currently get.
I believe that there are far better solutions to meeting the housing requirements for Dorset than dumping 40% of East Dorset’s quota on a small rural village .
We should look at either spreading the load across the whole of the Dorset area – or creating a Garden Town close to decent transport, road and rail links, and employment. This would minimise the need for travel to work, relieving congestion, pollution, and reducing any impact on Climate Change.
As a Liberal Democrat I believe in the principles of Localism, and have been instrumental in getting the Parish of Alderholt declared a Neighbourhood Area – with a view to Alderholt developing its own Neighbourhood Plan. We are one of the very first such areas in East Dorset.
Climate change is the single most important challenge we face in this country, indeed across the world. Climate change will create famine and trigger a migration crisis that makes our current problems seem trivial.
The proposals to put a dormitory of over 3,000 houses in this area, where there is very little local employment and no commuter based public transport, will mean that residents will have to drive to places of work, many miles away.
This can only increase levels of pollution and fail climate change targets.