RESIDENTS are throwing their weight behind a campaign to keep Condor Ferries in Weymouth.

The Dorset Echo has launched a petition calling on the firm to think again over its future operations and to maintain a cross-Channel ferry link from the resort.

It comes after the firm was accused of ‘holding the town to ransom’ over its demands.

A year after Weymouth and Portland Borough Council completed a £4million project fixing No 3 berth for Condor vessels it is now facing the prospect of having to come up with a further £10million to accommodate a larger ferry in the harbour.

The company favours using No 1 berth that will need a substantial upgrade to fit the 102-metre-long trimaran.

If the council did the work it would mean Condor would switch to Poole for a year – but there are doubts whether the cash-strapped council will do the work, so the future remains uncertain.

The petition, which can be signed online via the Dorset Echo website or at local Echo retailers, says that Weymouth enjoys a good relationship with the Channel Islands and the cross-Channel ferry link is a vital asset.

The ferry operation is worth millions to the local economy and its impact is felt all over the borough.

Director of Resources at the council Jason Vaughan said the authority was doing ‘all it could to positively resolve the issue.’ Condor says it is still considering options for a new vessel in the fleet and is talking to ports between the UK, Channel Islands and France.

The petition at Mace News in Lennox Street, Weymouth, has been filling up fast and Gloria McDermott who runs the store with husband Colin says feelings are running high.

Six sheets of paper are already full up with names and some customers have taken away extra sheets to get them signed at their workplaces.

Mrs McDermott said: “I am not letting people leave the shop until they have signed.

“But we have found that all customers are very supportive of the petition and don’t want Condor to go again.

“They remember what it was like last time when it went away for 17 months.

“It would affect all of us if it went.”

Sign the petition here or visit your local newsagent which sells the Dorset Echo.

'Complicated negotiations'

CHAIRMAN of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s Harbour Management Board Dominic Lonsdale said: “We would love to have a long-term contract with Condor Ferries which would allow everyone to plan.

“At the moment there’s complicated and commercially sensitive negotiations going on involving Condor, the Channel Islands and Weymouth.

“We hope that the end state will be a long, secure and commercially successful partnership for all the parties involved.”