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Councillors fire warning shot at plans to close Weymouth seafront
COUNCILLORS have fired a warning shot at plans to close Weymouth seafront to traffic next summer and other Olympic ‘legacy’ projects.
The closure is among the proposals being investigated by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to build on the legacy and continue the ‘feel-good factor’ for years to come.
Creating a traffic-free zone is only an idea following positive feedback after the Games and nothing has been decided.
A comprehensive report by the council’s head of Olympic legacy Simon Williams proposes closing the Esplanade from King’s Statue to East Street 11am-5pm between mid-July to end of August.
Mr Williams says although a closure is supported by many people, he warns there are implications for businesses.
Closure times would have to accommodate ferry sailings and access to the terminal would be maintained via an alternative route.
But leisure and tourism spokesman Ian Bruce urged councillors at the management committee to rethink the plan, and other concerns were raised about issues in the report.
Coun Bruce said: “We have the most profitable car park next to the Pavilion, which is well-used during the summer and is the ideal place for the typical motorist who doesn’t want to walk more than two minutes to the beach – and we’re suggesting to close that off. I suggest we knock this on the head.”
Coun Bruce also raised the issue of people accessing the ferry terminal, Pavilion and harbourside, adding: “I oppose any closure that doesn’t allow visitors and local citizens access to the harbour and beach.”
Coun Gill Taylor also raised concerns about the legacy report, saying that the committee agreeing to more than 50 priorities would mean officer time would be taken up by this work and nothing else.
She also echoed concerns raised earlier by Coun Ian Roebuck that the proper procedure wasn’t being followed when allocating a grant.
The legacy report recommends approval of a £7,000 contribution to the 2013 Sail for Gold regatta at the sailing academy.
Coun Taylor said grants over a certain amount have to go through a process involving the group leaders before going to the council for decision.
The committee agreed to defer a decision on the grant but backed the recommendation which approves priorities in the legacy report, including investigating the potential for seafront pedestrianisation, work on attracting inward investment, developing a ‘summer to remember’ festival including sports and torch wading. There is also a long list of other priorities the council is backing, subject to officer time and approval.
Committee chairman Mike Goodman said: “We need to make sure we keep up the energy and don’t allow ourselves to get deflected in how we recoup from a summer season, which for some was disappointing and who say the legacy was a failure. The legacy is bigger than that.”
n AFTER the meeting, Dave Price of the Weymouth Hotel and Guesthouse Leaseholders’ Associ-ation said: “I think closure of the seafront could be a good thing if it’s managed correctly and for certain hours.
“I would take an hour off each end to what is being proposed so it would be closed from 12-4pm. During the Olympics it was 10am-10pm, which was over the top and ridiculous.”