Better access to Ford Common, Dorset

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We have helped to achieve an excellent outcome from SITA UK’s plans to extend its Binnegar Quarry, close to Puddletown Road three miles west of Wareham in Dorset.

Because the development would affect Ford Common, owned by SITA, the company had to offer land in exchange for the common land it wished to quarry. SITA applied in September 2014 to deregister 197,000 square metres of the common, and offered in exchange 229,000 metres of land to the north of the A352 and to the east and west of Binnegar Lane (a mile east of Stokeford). This includes a small, new public car-park off Binnegar Lane.

One of many misleading notices which Ralph found on Ford Common when he moved to Purbeck.

One of many misleading notices which Ralph Holmes found on Ford Common when he moved to Purbeck.

We were involved at an early stage and have worked hard throughout to get the best deal for the public. There were objections to the common-land exchange (from the society and East Stoke Parish Council, among others) followed by negotiations in which we made good progress, and a public hearing was held in February 2016. The inspector has approved the common-land exchange; the development already had planning permission.

Ralph Holmes, our Purbeck local correspondent, welcomes the result. He says: ‘It should be of great benefit to local residents, walkers, cyclists and horse-riders. New paths, bridleways and car-parks all make for easy access, together with the right for the public to walk over the whole area under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

‘Natural England has given helpful advice to ensure that there will be no detrimental effect on the important wildlife of the heathland areas.’

Soon after he moved to Purbeck in 2012, Ralph was surprised to find that the public was almost completely, and wrongly, excluded from Ford Common, by ditches, fences and impenetrable hedges and ‘no access’ notices. In her report, the inspector, Heidi Cruickshank, described this lack of access as ‘unsatisfactory’ and ‘disappointing’.

Ralph is pleased with the progress that has been made since SITA’s application. He says: ‘I and another member of the Open Spaces Society had friendly and helpful discussions with SITA. I found SITA well informed about access issues and willing to make reasonable changes. I am delighted that access to the replacement land will be easy and that new bridleways will allow access for walkers, riders and cyclists to the remaining areas of the original Ford Common.

‘In 20 years or so time, when quarrying and restoration are complete, the rest of the original common will be re-registered and opened up to the public with a new bridleway and a further small car-park. The replacement land will remain as common land so we will have gained considerably. I am very pleased with the outcome of our negotiations.’

The inspector’s decision is here.

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