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Town council rejects poll calling for funding of legal action where it is a defendant

A Dorset town council has rejected the outcome of a parish poll that would see it take legal action against itself.

The dispute concerns a plan by North Dorset District Council to sell Shaftesbury’s Cattle Market site, which is opposed by local campaign group Justice for Shaftesbury (JFS).

JFS called a parish poll on whether Shaftesbury Town Council should “fund and support a judicial review” of the proposed sale.

It won by 623 votes to 380 on a 15.67% turnout.

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But the town council has refused to adhere to this outcome because JFS had already applied for a judicial review and named it as the second defendant alongside North Dorset.

The town council said it last Friday “considered legal advice against funding a legal action to which it was also a defendant”, and resolved that it would “not support and/or fund the judicial review already submitted by Justice for Shaftesbury to which Shaftesbury Town Council is second defendant”.

North Dorset’s strategic director Martin Hamilton said in an open letter in July that the market was occupied by Southern Counties Auctioneers (SCA), which had 36 years to run on a lease dating from 1967.

Mr Hamilton said the council and SCA agreed in April to sell the site and he was not now willing to delay this.

“Aside from releasing a much needed capital receipt for the local authority, the sale will see this important site redeveloped, delivering new facilities for the town,” he said.

“It will also see new jobs provided for the town – well in excess of the numbers currently employed on the site.”

Mark Smulian

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