Inquiry opens into second phase of 350-home scheme

A public enquiry opened on December 1 into proposals by Bellway Homes (Wessex) Ltd for the next phase of their development opposite Tesco off the bypass at Blandford St Mary.

The enquiry by the Planning Inspectorate is taking place as a virtual event via Microsoft Teams and expected to last four days. It is hearing the developers’ appeal against non- determination by Dorset Council of their detailed application for the second phase of 350 homes and associated works.

They have also submitted a revised detailed application following the grant of outline permission by North Dorset District Council in 2016. Detailed permission for the first 89 of the homes was approved by Dorset Council in January this year, and works on the gas main as part of the new development opposite Tesco off the Blandford bypass prompted an outcry when four-way traffic lights and reversed direction signs resulted in heavy congestion on November 11.

Southern Gas said they were carrying out essential and safety critical upgrades to their gas network in the Bournemouth Road area of Blandford St Mary which was hoped to be completed by Sunday, December 6.
The lights, which allowed travel in each direction for only a minute with a 15-second time lapse when they changed, will be in place throughout, and the company say they are to avoid road closures and ensure everyone’s safety.

Motorists on the first day thought differently after finding the main roads jammed with traffic, and found themselves travelling the wrong way round the roundabout when the correct route was blocked, and on occasions heading for the wrong destination.

Delays, queues, and a significant increase in traffic through the town centre prompted speculation as to how the junction and bypass would cope when all the houses were built.
After a few days the system appeared to be working more smoothly, and a spokesman for South West Gas admitted it was a terrible location for four-way traffic lights, but said: “After considerable liaison with Dorset Council it was deemed four-way lights were the safest way to undertake these works, being so close to the roundabout. The traffic management was set up prior to works commencing so that we could monitor flows and queues – if the counts were deemed too high we could have removed the works whereas if we had started trenching we could not.”

He said operatives were continuing to monitor the lights and traffic to try to ease the queues on all approaches, and were working seven days a week to push the work on, but were also under considerable restrictions due to the covid- 19 pandemic.

There will be further disruption when Bellway resurface the road.

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