Secretary of State Calls in Planning Application for 49O Homes at Blandford

15th April 2024


This week Felicity Buchan, Minister for Housing and Homelessness, on behalf of the Secretary of State, called in the application to build 490 homes by Wyatt Homes between Blandford and Pimperne. A Planning Inspector will then carry out a public inquiry into the proposal. This followed the Northern Area Planning Committee’s decision to approve for a second time the application after it was initially approved last October. The second hearing had been called so that changes to material planning considerations could be taken into account. Campaigners had hoped the committee would defer the hearing until councillors had been trained on the changes in the planning rules, which they have not, but this need was ignored by both officers and the committee, while the Planning Officer made light of the effects of planning changes on this application. Even the local MP Simon Hoare spoke on behalf of the opposition.

However, the first approval had triggered a calling-in request to the Secretary of State by the Cranborne Chase National Landscape (CCNL), previously known as the CCAONB, North Dorset CPRE and Pimperne Parish Council. This was made as the planning committee failed to deal with several matters of national importance, including the failure to uphold the recently remade Pimperne Neighbourhood Plan and support major development within an AONB without exceptional circumstances.

The calling-in letter tells Dorset Council that for the Secretary of State “the matters which he particularly wishes to be informed about for the purposes of his consideration of the application are:

a) The extent to which the proposed development is consistent with Government policies for delivering a sufficient supply of homes in the NPPF (Chapter 5);

b) The extent to which the proposed development is consistent with Government policies for conserving and enhancing the natural environment in the NPPF (Chapter 15);

c) The extent to which the proposed development is consistent with the development plan for the area; and

d) any other matters the Inspector considers relevant.”

The news of the calling-in was greeted with relief by campaigners. Richard Burden, CCNL Principal Landscape and Planning Officer, said: “Building 490 dwellings and other buildings on productive farmland in one of the nation’s finest landscapes does not protect that landscape, nor conserve and enhance natural beauty, as intended by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949, so the CCNL welcomes the decision to call in the application for full and objective scrutiny.”

View over site of Wyatt Homes approved development on rolling downland in the parish of Pimperne.


First Planning Approval, October 2023

The campaign to stop this development had been based on the following key grounds:

Housing needs were well provided for already in North Dorset, especially in Blandford and Pimperne.

Limited evidence of the need for a new school, which would be paid for by Section 106 developer funding tied to this application.

Harm to the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and its setting, on whose land some of the development would be built.

Conflict with Pimperne’s Neighbourhood Plan, as 150 homes would be built within their parish.

News last autumn that there was now more than a five year housing land supply in North Dorset with planning decisions supposedly following development plans, made campaigners more confident that they stood a good chance of actually stopping the developers. Housing targets in the North Dorset Local Plan for Blandford Forum and St Mary, as well as in the surrounding villages had been exceeded thanks to a massive building programme in recent years. There was little evidence of the need for a new school with data showing declining school rolls, and if there was need later, surely this could be achieved more cheaply with a few extra classrooms? Granting permission would also result in severe traffic congestion for Blandford and place more pressure on Blandford’s creaking infrastructure.

The National Landscape would be harmed with views to and from it seriously affected, and good farmland, which contributes to food security and acts as a carbon sink against climate change, sacrificed. 150 dwellings would be built in the parish of Pimperne, threatening the important “gap” between the village and Blandford, in direct conflict with Pimperne’s recently re-made Neighbourhood Plan.

The planning officer’s report for the October hearing acknowledged that there was a conflict with the council’s development plan, which said building in the countryside should be resisted. However, committee members seemed determined to approve yet more housing, with little regard for the harm it would cause to local residents, CCNL and Pimperne. Admittedly the development is well designed, but is clearly in the wrong place. One wonders about the composition of the committee, with no members on it representing Blandford.

It was particularly galling for Pimperne Parish Council Chairman, Peter Slocombe, who spent hundreds of hours with volunteers to create the Neighbourhood Plan, which was flouted both here and in a previous recent planning application, while Pimperne would receive no Section 106 benefits at all.

Read the full Press Release from North Dorset CPRE, Pimperne Parish Council and Cranborne Chase National Landscape.