FURIOUS campaigners have slammed a decision to go ahead with a 760 home development as ‘sham democracy at its very worst.’

A meeting of West Dorset District Council’s planning committee on Friday saw councillors overwhelmingly approve outline planning application for the development on Vearse Farm in Bridport, which also includes a care home, school and vehicular, pedestrian and cycle access to West Road, Pine View and Magdalen Lane.

A spokesman for campaign group Advearse says they are in conversations with ‘other parties about what will happen next,’ but that the group is ‘very encouraged to have already received offers of financial support for a legal challenge.'

At a packed meeting in South Walks House, Dorchester, more than 20 members of the public addressed the planning committee with their views, alongside some town and other district councillors.

Issues raised by public speakers included increasing existing traffic problems, pressure on local services, flood risk and danger to users of the B3162 and West Road. Many questioned how affordable the new homes would be.

Resident Mr Tett raised concerns about the impact the development would have on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“To say this development is controversial is an understatement,” he said. “760 homes would be a travesty. This is an AONB and the provision of 760 homes would greatly impact the character of the area.

“Road infrastructure is inadequate and the town already becomes gridlocked.” Mr Tett urged the committee to approach the application with ‘common sense.’

Mr Sturrock, who lives in neighbouring West Allington, said: “I am not opposed to development but it is the intensity of this development. There will be more cars on the roads than can be absorbed. It seems as though they’ve said ‘we need to build so many homes let’s just put them all here.’

Mr Watson, who has lived in the town since 1939, expressed concern over flooding, saying it could be ‘disastrous’ if warnings are ignored.

He added: “The people of Bridport have clearly indicated that they do not want this. I would ask that you listen to their voice.”

District councillor for Chideock and Symondsbury, Simon Christopher, ‘implored’ his fellow councillors not to vote in favour of the plans, expressing concerns over the safety at the A35 junction.

The development – which lies within Symondsbury parish to the west of Bridport - come from developer Hallam Land Management, representatives of which were present at the meeting.

They said the proposals were ‘well thought-out’ and policy compliant and that the ‘compelling positives outweigh the negatives.'

In June, the Environment Agency – which had previously objected to the plans over flooding fears - reviewed revised plans for the site and withdrew its objections, subject to conditions being met.

Last month, Dorset County Council’s highways authority did the same - the U-turn came after the authority also received revised transport plans and a transport assessment which it deemed to be ‘safe and robust.’

The proposals were approved on Friday subject to a Section 106 agreement, which includes 35 per cent affordable housing, education provision, highway matters, infrastructure provision, landscaping, employment land provision and contributions to healthcare provision.

In a recorded vote, 10 councillors approved the plans - which were seconded by district councillor for Bridport South, Frances McKenzie - while one abstained and another, Cllr Simon Christopher, rejected them.

Speaking after the meeting, a spokesman for Advearse said: "Advearse is very disappointed but not surprised by the decision. Councillors have been put under pressure by their officers to deliver 760 houses on the site in order to meet the housing target for West Dorset. The result was a defeat for common sense, a victory for faceless corporate companies and a sham for local democracy.

“The plans should have been rejected until Hallam had produced plans more conducive to public safety.

“Advearse members were shocked that Bridport South Cllr Frances McKenzie actually seconded the proposal to approve. Her very small input into the meeting made no reference to the concerns many of the residents of Bridport South have against the scheme.”