Dorchester Masterplan - options are still open

Dorchester Masterplan - options are still open

Published by Maria Greenwood at 8:20am 22nd August 2018. (Updated at 8:23am 22nd August 2018)

A a range of options for both sites are still on the table.

Options remain open for two key Dorchester town centre sites – district councillors have been told.

Even though plans for a £2million covered market and car park on Dorchester’s Charles Street car park have been put forward – the existing market could stay where it is, at Fairfield, or the Fairfield eventually redeveloped for shopping.

Council development director Martin Hamilton says a range of options for both sites are still on the table and will be open for public debate and discussion. He revealed that the council had been working with a potential developer for the Fairfield site but said he was unable to say more in public at the moment.

dorchester market plans

He also said that despite worries about archaeological remains holding up previous Charles Street development, that the covered market idea was unlikely to be slowed, or stopped, by what lay under the ground.

“I wouldn’t say that archaeology is going to be a significant challenge to the development,” he told a special district council strategy meeting in Dorchester on Monday.

And he revealed that a hotel on the site remained a “real possibility” while a food retailer for the site had not been ruled out.

Dorchester Cllr Susie Hosford said that the town could be about to enter an exciting period in its development: “What is key to its success is to keep key local bodies involved,” she said.

Mr Hamilton promised that would happen. He said that a new covered market might reverse the decline of the existing Wednesday stall market which has lost 14 per cent of its gross turnover per year since March 2016 – but he warned that even if the new market was a success, the town was still likely to suffer the loss of at least one high street ‘name’ because of the global changes taking place in retailing.

He said that research suggested that a good market can increase town centre footfall by around 25% on market days with more than half of market visitors also spending in other shops.

“It can also add to the colour and vibrancy of the town.

“It should be developed with a regional reputation as a great day out with a Dorset flavour…it can be a significant income generator for both the town and the district.”

Councillors were told that there would be a public consultation on both sites in October by which time his team would have done more work on designs and costings for the covered market and on a business case for the move away from Fairfield.

Dorchester Cllr Molly Rennie welcomed the proposals but said that she would be against any move which forced market operators, Ensors, to move from the Fairfield or to give up their current eight year lease to runs the Wednesday market.

“We don’t want any disagreement with the only market operator we have got at the moment,” she said.

She told the committee there was also concern about the amount of town centre car parking and details such as where the market traders would park their vehicles after setting up. She said there would also be a need for “a superloo” on the site which, in turn, led to questions about who would run it, and how it would be funded.

Attempts by Dorchester councillor Gerald Duke to get a decision about the transfer of the Market Charter to the town council were rejected by Council Leader Tony Alford who said it would be the subject of future talks about the devolution of district council assets.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter.

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