CONCERNS over a perceived lack of democracy and creating an extra bureaucratic layer is deterring some Dorchester councillors backing plans for a National Park for the area.

But for others claims that it could give control over affordable housing levels may swing the argument.

Further work will now be commissioned by the town council to look at the arguments for and against national park status before they decide whether or not to back the proposals.

In a debate on Monday evening (September 28), Cllr Les Fry said that promises for greater democracy and being able to deliver affordable homes simply did not add up.

He said the claim that a National Park board, which would have 25% of its members appointed, rather than elected, could not be more democratic.

Cllr Stella Jones said she doubted that the Government would give up dictating housing targets and even if the National Park Board was allowed to set its own limits, it would simply increase the demand in areas of Dorset which were not included in the Park.

She was also dubious about claims of greater control over development and the landscape claiming that Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status already meant the area had the top level of control and that, apart from creating another organisation, National Park status might do little for the area.

“We have just had local government reorganisation we don’t want another layer of administration,” she told the town council meeting.

But Cllr Alistair Chisholm backed the idea of a Dorset National Park. He said that the current Dorset Council dominance by one party could hardly be claimed to be democratic and by allowing town and parish councillors onto a Park board might help redress the balance.

He said he also believed that a Park board was likely to progress plans for housing and climate change quicker than Dorset Council.

Proposer of the National Park plan, Richard Brown, denied that the Park board would be another layer of bureaucracy and said the proposals were likely to see more affordable homes built for local people.

He said that the South Downs park, which he said was similar to Dorset, had created 90 direct jobs, attracted £10m of Government funding and a matching amount in other income.

He claimed it had also attracted new tourism as well as extending the season which, in turn, had also created jobs.

On housing he said that the Park board had ensured local homes were built for local people unlike Dorset where housing was developer-led with most of the new homes bought by people outside the county, typically in the 55-65 age range.