Background and purpose
North Dorset District Council (NDDC) allocated £250,957 of Section 106 Lidl store funding to provide a bus service to take people from the Lidl store into town. The purpose of the X8A is to mitigate the impact of the store on the town centre. The bus provides two journeys per hour, between 9 am and 5 pm, from Monday to Saturday from the Lidl store into the town centre. But is it being used by sufficient people to make it worthwhile?
A better service or better use of funding
Readers will know that the service is invariably empty, or at best carries one or two people. Bus service professionals say that a full sized single decker bus is essential to provide compatibility with the rest of the fleet and for disabled access. There is also a widely held view that the money should either be reallocated to other projects, or the route changed to bring more people into the town centre. The Town Team submitted a Freedom of Information Request in June 2018 to query the costs, usage, timetable, route and justification for the amount of money allocated to the service. While the X8A is greatly appreciated by the few who use it, better use should be made of funding if numbers can’t be improved.
Funding could go to an alternative town centre enhancement project if the service cannot be improved
You may feel that the X8A service should be free to all to encourage residents to leave their cars behind to shop in the town. The service could take in the local villages of Pimperne, Blandford St Mary and Bryanston to bring more people into town. Our aim in all this has been to see that best use is made of the substantial part of the overall funding allocated to mitigate the impact of the Lidl store on the town centre. The money allocated to the service can only be used for something else if the following criteria can be met. ‘If it appears to the Council that the specified projects may no longer address to the same extent the purpose for which the contribution was originally secured then the Council may use the Bus Service Contribution and, or, the Enhancement Contribution for alternative projects, provided that:
1.2.1 In the opinion of the Council any such alternative project could address (in whole or in part) the same or similar planning purposes as that for which the original contribution was secured; and1.2.2 Prior to the expenditure of the contribution on any such alternative project the Council has made reasonable endeavours to notify the payer of that contribution (if still existing) in writing of the alternative scheme.Under the above circumstances, funding could go to a different project that will bring more people into the town centre e.g. an alternative town centre enhancement project. Tell us what you think. You can have your say by emailing the Town Team, by responding to a letter in the April edition of Forum Focus or on the Blandford Forum – public forum Facebook page. Blandford councillors elected to the unitary authority in May can take up the challenge.
X8A Bus Route and Timetable from 7th January 2019
Damory has listened to feedback from the public and has revised the service. From 7th January 2019 the town circular bus goes via Whitecliff Mill Street rather than Salisbury Street. This provides an additional stop outside Ryan Court close to local doctors’ surgeries. The service is a boon to local residents and the community, linking the town centre, the hospital and Lidl. Those that have access to the service are encouraged to use it
Click the links below to see the revised route map and timetables for Monday to Friday and Saturdays.