I have no connection with the Chancery House development but was a Board member in the NHS, and since retirement advised a department of Social Services for several years, so claim some knowledge of the background.

In 1997, when Chancery House was built, day-care (primarily for the elderly) was provided by bussing (usually by hired coach) to a central day centre. This system had long been criticised by professionals and all political parties as having the worst features of battery farming of chickens, except that chickens did not have to spend three hours a day travelling down bumpy country roads. The introduction of Personal Budgets – again with support of all political parties – progressively served to provide those needing day care with more imaginative and sensitive solutions, and accordingly funding for Chancery House by Dorset County ceased some years ago, saying there was no longer any demand. Chancery House limped on, but obviously eventually closed. The purpose for which it was built no longer exists.

However, the report from Dorset Council rejecting the new proposal for Chancery House gives as one reason “the loss of a community facility”, a facility for which Dorset Council has says there is no demand.

A further objection is that alternative uses have not been explored. One of these “alternative uses” that the Dorset Council letter specifically suggests is a petrol station. In order to provide formal documentation to satisfy Dorset Council that Chancery House is not suitable to become a petrol station, consultants at several hundred pounds a day will need to be engaged by DanTay Almshouses to investigate the site, discuss recommendations, prepare a draft report, discuss and agree a final report, then bind it nicely with a score of copies for interested parties. Nice work if you can get it.

Another specific suggestion is a public house. Difficult to find and identify down Chancery Lane, of course, and not a terribly inviting site, even if the public houses in Bridport were heaving at the seams and begging the local authority to provide more outlets to relieve the pressure.

Some of the proposed flats are judged to be too small. They are formally and legally within building guidelines, so presumably this concern is prompted by the thought that those homeless currently sofa-surfing or sleeping in the garden of the Unitarian Chapel may not have room to install a grand piano in their eventual abode.

The final nail in the coffin is that DanTay is not a Registered Housing Provider. They have been providing homes for the poor of Bridport since 1696, but this is not considered adequate provenance. What they need (again) is to employ management consultants to register themselves at considerable expense.

The proposal by DanTay, prepared entirely by their own efforts and at their own expense, is obviously a sensible solution for a redundant building. The proposal – which will cost no public money – should have been accepted with open arms with perhaps only a caveat that the number of flats and the lighting and ventilation of the top floor should be looked at again before final approval.

As it is, a worthy and virtuous effort to assist Dorset Council answer severe national criticism of its failure to provide affordable housing has been tossed in the dirt.

Martin Ternouth

Edgehill Road