A MULTI-MILLION pound shops and office development will financially drain the taxpayer, West Dorset residents and councillors are warning.

They spoke out after the £60million Charles Street project in Dorchester was given the go-ahead at a crunch meeting of West Dorset District Council’s development control committee.

It will house £10 million offices for the council, a new library, shops, a new Waitrose supermarket, a hotel, flats and underground parking.

Placard-carrying campaigners gathered outside the meeting to protest as councillors arrived to make the decision.

Some 300 written objections were received from taxpayers.

Members of the planning committee voted six to two in favour of the planning application.

The ‘yes’ vote came after 30 years of failed schemes and debates over the town centre site, which is covered by car parks.

One of the two councillors who voted against the plans was Coun Karl Wallace, county councillor for Bridport.

At the meeting, he said: “Although there were lots of members of the public there, a lot of their concerns weren’t actually planning issues – it was the financing of it.”

Coun Wallace said he had objections to the size and mass of the building and believed it would be out of character with the historic street setting.

He added: “I wasn’t convinced that the county council would have the funds to support a new library.

“In this time of austerity I don’t think we have the money to invest in that project.

“I personally felt that the building was bland and boring and would be better sited in Bracknell or Slough.”

Speaking after the meeting, West Dorset district councillor Ros Kayes said she hopes the development control committee’s decision can be challenged.

She added: “My position has always been that in a recession it’s not appropriate to be spending that much money.

“I have concerns about the way the planning meeting was conducted.

“Members of the executive committee came and spoke in favour it.

“I think that put undue pressure on members of the planning committee and politicised it.

“This is a white elephant and a drain on the financial resources. We’re having difficulty at the moment getting affordable housing schemes up and running because of the recession.

“That’s what we should be focusing on.”

Beaminster resident Karel Herman said the development will be an ‘eyesore’.

He said: “The building will be an eyesore well above the existing skyline of Dorchester.

“A well used community church is potentially under threat of a compulsory purchase order by the council to facilitate this new council building.

“As council taxpayers’ money is wasted on this building, clearly the taxpayer should have a say in this.”

Members voted on a hybrid application to give full approval for the council office and library and outline permission for the rest of the scheme.