We are calling on Dorset Council to extend the consultation duration for the Dorset Local Plan and do more to engage local people in the consultation process.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has meant that the Local Plan proposals have not been:
"... shaped by early, proportionate and effective engagement between planmakers and communities, local organisations, businesses, infrastructure
providers and operators and statutory consultees”
as stipulated in Paragraph 16c of the National Planning Policy Framework.
The current Local Plan Consultation strategy largely relies on people having access to, and sufficient familiarity and experience with, the internet.
Whilst there are copies lodged with local Libraries people need to be able to book, collect, read and return these in a short space of time. Given the three-week loan period it’s likely that each copy will only be read by two, or at most three people, in the time available.
Many people are suffering extreme hardship and stress, many juggling home working whilst having to home educate children, many battling with grief, or loss of their livelihood. A great number of people do not have access to on-line facilities or are simply unable to engage with it. This is not the time to be conducting a "public consultation" when a large number of local residents are unable to participate.
We believe it should be a fully franchised, democratic process, which would lend significant weight to the eventual published plan, rather than the democratically limited process currently in hand.
In light of this, we call on the Council to extend the Consultation until later in the year, when we hope to be able to have some face to face contact and the ability to run well-structured road shows, and fully involve as many of our residents as possible.