COUNCIL chiefs and campaigners have vowed to fight on after the government said it ‘doesn’t have £10million’ to fund a new berth for Condor Ferries.
A delegation from Weymouth and Portland met with transport secretary Stephen Hammond yesterday to try to secure funding for the new berth, which would accommodate a larger ship that Condor wants to use for its Channel Islands route.
Although the meeting has been deemed ‘constructive’, funding hasn’t been secured.
Speaking afterwards, South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “We had a useful discussion exploring possible avenues for the future.
“Regrettably, the minister doesn’t have £10million he can give us outright.
“Officials and I will be continuing to work with everyone we can to try and secure the necessary funding.”
He said the minister was ‘keen to help Weymouth how he can’ and that the group will keep fighting to finance repairs that are needed at Weymouth port.
The Echo revealed last month that the future of Condor in Weymouth is uncertain.
A council report stated that Condor had rejected using the refurbished No 3 Berth due to the size of the new vessel, despite £4million worth of repair works being spent on the harbour wall.
It said the ferry firm favoured using No 1 Berth which will need £10million of repair works to make it fit for purpose.
Of yesterday’s meeting, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council interim chief executive Jason Vaughan said: “It was a very constructive meeting, although unfortunately we weren’t able to secure the required investment directly from the government.
“The minister agreed to work with us to explore a way forward and we shall now be discussing a range of options with various partners.
“Our aim remains to secure the long term future of Condor Ferries’ operations from Weymouth Harbour, protect local jobs and continue the historic links to the Channel Islands from the town which are so valued by local people and businesses.”
The Echo started a petition which has gained more than a thousand signatures calling on the company to stay in Weymouth.
Businesses suffered while Condor temporarily moved to Poole and many fear that if the company was to pull out permanently it would have a devastating effect on the town.
Mr Drax added: “It’s very important it stays in Weymouth. It brings about 200 jobs – good jobs, not seasonal jobs.
“The company has been here for a long time and it provides an important link with the Channel Islands and France, which is a very nice thing to have.”
Neither the council nor Mr Drax would be drawn further on what happened at the meeting, or where the delegation will look next for funding.
Condor is Weymouth port’s biggest customer and is said to bring more than £7million a year to the local economy.
The company did not wish to comment on yesterday’s meeting.
James Fulford, chief executive of Condor Ferries, previously said it was ‘working closely with all the interested parties’ regarding berthing arrangements and valued its ‘close relationship’ with Weymouth.