Push to get an improvement in how Dorchester road will be left
By Trevor Bevins - Local Democracy Reporter
11th Feb 2024 | Local News
A PUSH is being made to ensure a Dorchester road is completed with proper landscaping – rather than being left as a 'basic' job.
If the money can be found the road will get a mini-avenue of trees, benches and a rain garden. If not it will be left with a pavement finished in 'blacktop' tarmac, a road closure at one end, and little else.
Councillors and others say it would be a shame to lose the chance to make the road a feature for the county town, for the sake of a relatively small sum of money.
Dorchester's Fairfield Road, which runs between the two sections of the market, has, until now, never had a pavement with cars parked either side forcing pedestrians into oncoming traffic. Over the years there have been accidents – some of them serious.
Work to create the pavement and close the road to traffic at the Weymouth Avenue junction is expected to finish in about a week's time.
The improved safety measures will also see a new pedestrian access created from the car park, close to the junction leading to the South railway station. Vehicle access will remain at the Maumbury Road end with the link between the lower and upper car parks kept open mid-way along Fairfield Road.
Dorset Council and Dorchester town councillors say they will now try and find the extra money, put at between £100,000 and £130,000 for the trees, rain garden, paving, planters and seating, before the momentum is lost.
Said Dorset Council portfolio holder Cllr Laura Beddow: "There is a strong concern that if there is a pause it could be many years before anything else is done. We need to find ways to achieve what could be a fantastic scheme for the town."
Dorchester markets panel has already backed a proposal to try and find the money, using its own cash reserves and calling on Dorchester Town Council and Dorset Council to come up with their share.
The current work is being carried out by Dorset Council using Government grant money, the authority claiming that it does not have the finances to pay for the landscaping.
Markets panel chair, Cllr Molly Rennie, said it was pleasing to see the work going ahead, within a year of it being first proposed, but also pressed for the scheme to be fully completed as soon as possible.
She said that with the landscaping the area could become an important urban oasis in the town as well as providing a pleasant link for the market and a safer route between the town's two railway stations.
The Dorset Council officer leading the project, Chris Peck, said the rain garden idea had been tried, successfully, in other towns, looked attractive and also provided a means of managing water flows at times of excess rainfall. At the moment all the water from the upper car park flows into just one surface drain in Weymouth Avenue, often leading to flooding. A rain garden would soak up some of that excess water and slow the flow.
Mr Peck said a short avenue of smaller trees could be achieved in the road, interspersed with some seating: "it could be a place to have a spot of lunch on market days, or meet friends… it's an opportunity to create a much better public space," he said.
Said town councillor Janet Hewitt :"It would be ideal. We need to see the money set aside to enhance the area, I don't want to see it just left once the pavement is completed."