New housing is not just vital to provide more homes – especially for young, working local people – it is also brings major benefits for the community, according to councillors.
They say that common misconceptions about infrastructure continue to persist in some quarters when, in fact, health, education, roads, the environment and transport links are placed squarely at the centre of the council’s planning considerations.
Local authorities have strict policies about the provision of important assets such as new roads, GP surgeries, health centres, play areas, cycleways, affordable housing, schools and transport links.
Perhaps even less well known are the planning contributions developers and housebuilders make to the community at the insistence of our councils; in the past, a legal document called a Section 106 agreement was used, more recently this is achieved through a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) contribution.
In practice, this often means that as well as new infrastructure on a development itself there will be wider benefits for a town or area too.
For example, financial contributions from developers at the Poundbury development in Dorchester have helped several schemes in the county town over recent years, and will continue to do so.
The new Dorchester Sports Centre was built in 2011-12 with a financial contribution from the first phase of the Poundbury development, and more recently money has been allocated to the £13 million project to improve and expand Dorset County Museum.
Developer contributions have also been committed to the proposal to transform the old Maltings building at Brewery Square into a new arts centre for Dorset.
A panel of West Dorset District Council members from Dorchester and surrounding villages, chaired by Cllr Susie Hosford, allocates the Section 106 funding.
The district council has joined forces with Weymouth & Portland Borough Council and North Dorset District Council to encourage the development of more good quality housing in their areas and show the benefits of development through its Opening Doors housing programme.
For Dorchester Town, nicknamed the Magpies, the money has given the club wings with its new artificial, all-weather 3G pitch.
The community owned club’s new playing surface at its Clayson Stadium has laid the foundations for future growth both on and off the pitch.
It means the first team – which plays in the Evo-Stick Southern Premier League – has a reliable and quality playing surface, with the prospect of games being postponed virtually nil.
But perhaps more importantly, the £468,000 project – including new, efficient floodlighting – has thrown open the turnstiles to even more members of the community and brought a new meaning to grassroots football.
Nigel Hayes, one of the club’s directors, said that about 1,000 people are now pouring through its doors and the pitch is being used for a staggering 60 hours a week compared to six hours previously.
The club raised funds towards the project through its own Pitch for the Community initiative, which sold off squares of the pitch to supporters, with matchfunding from Dorset County Council.
Section 106 funding of £292,250 through West Dorset District Council gave the project a major boost – including £246,935 from the Poundbury development.
Nigel said: “We are very grateful to West Dorset District Council, Dorchester Town Council, Dorset County Council, the Duchy of Cornwall and everyone else for their support.
“Without the Section 106 money we would not have been able to do it at all. Now there is far more community use and we also hope it will encourage people to use other facilities at the stadium as well as increase interest in the club.”
In addition to the first team’s training and playing slots, the pitch is being used by 24 youth teams for training and games plus Dorset Premier League side Dorchester Sports and Piddlehinton FC.
In a major coup, Yeovil Town Ladies FC are using the Clayson Stadium as their home ground for the 2018-2019 season in the top tier of the women’s game where they will play against such teams as Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Other initiatives include walking football, SSE Wildcats Football to encourage more young girls into the sport and Kix Starts to give people with disabilities and learning difficulties the chance to play.
It is hoped that players will have a tea or coffee in the bar afterwards while spectators for youth matches will stay around to watch games from the stand.
The pitch is also available for hire – although players have to wear the right football boots. Thankfully, the club have bought a stock of boots for hire, thanks to a £500 donation from the local Round Table.
Cllr Tim Yarker, who is housing portfolio holder at West Dorset District Council, said: “The District Council is working hard to get enough of the right homes built in the right places, as part of its Opening Doors campaign.
“This drive to provide much needed affordable and market housing is also delivering wider benefits for the communities of which they are part.
“Developer contributions, such as S106 funds, have enabled valuable community projects to be delivered, which would otherwise have been unaffordable.”
Cllr Ian Gardner, planning portfolio holder at West Dorset District Council, added: “The planning process and Section 106 contributions can help create vibrant and vital communities.
“It is superb to see projects such as Dorchester Town’s new pitch come to fruition and be used by so many different clubs and groups already.”
Dorchester Town is fully owned and democratically run by its supporters. As a not-for-profit organisation, all funds are reinvested back into the club.
Although the grass roots of its new pitch may be artificial, the club is set to make a very real difference in the community for many years to come.
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