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Green light for relief road
COUNTY councillors have given the Weymouth Relief Road the green light.
The £77million project will see a new road from Ridgeway to Weymouth's Manor Roundabout, providing a bypass for Upwey, Broadwey and Redlands.
Members of Dorset County Council's planning committee granted planning permission for the proposal yesterday.
Work on the controversial scheme could now start early next year.
But objectors vowed to keep on fighting the plans, and called for a public inquiry.
The proposed relief road will run alongside the railway and pass through Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve and Littlemoor. It will then cut through the lower Bincombe Valley and join the existing Dorchester Road just before the Broadmayne road junction.
That junction will be closed and a new park and ride facility - accommodating 1,000 cars - will be introduced on the former North Lodmoor landfill.
Principal planning officer Chris Stokes told committee members that Weymouth and Portland needed a reliable and efficient transport corridor'.
He said all alternatives to the planned route have already been explored in considerable detail'.
"The proposal for the road is well established and consistent with policies," he told the meeting.
Local councillors urged the committee to vote in favour of the Relief Road.
Coun Harry Burden, member for Broadwey, said: "I don't want to be disparaging about the alternatives, but I'm not filled with any confidence by them.
"They won't solve Weymouth's transport problem. This small section of new road needs to be put into context. It's not a motorway, it's not even a dual carriageway.
"Oliver Letwin and Jim Knight support it, 80 per cent of local people want it and the Government is willing to pay for it."
Coun Mike Byatt, member for Westham, said: "The vast majority of people in Weymouth and Portland support the Relief Road."
Members of the planning committee voted unanimously in favour of the proposal.
Coun Ron Nash said: "We've had all these objections, written onto one or two pro-formas.
"If you want to impress me, write your own letters. This opposition is just automatic.
"The need for the road outweighs the considerable ecological problems."
Coun Peter Farrell said: "The case is made for me, I think we have to move with the times."
Vice-chairman Coun Spencer Flower added: "It's quite clear to me how long the people of Weymouth have been waiting for this road."
And while Coun Peter Hall was unhappy at the closure of the Broadmayne road and the loss of semi-ancient woodland, he also supported the scheme.
The scheme will now go to the county council's cabinet on 18 April. If approved, compulsory purchase orders will be published for the necessary land acquisition, and a contractor appointed for the project.
Angry objectors, including Bypass the Bypass campaigners who demonstrated at County Hall before the meeting, called the decision a whitewash'.
Bincombe resident Jennifer Critchell said: "I'm devastated. It's biased and it's not fair on us.
"We should go for alternative modes of transport, I really don't think we need the road. I won't stop fighting."
Guy Dickinson, one of the founders of Bypass the Bypass, added: "They're only giving themselves planning permission.
"We're not that surprised. But we need to make sure there's an independent public inquiry."
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?.
THE planning committee's decision is set to go to the next meeting of the county council cabinet, which is expected to give the scheme its backing.
The council would then issue compulsory purchase orders, ensuring landowners along the route give up the necessary areas for development, and a contractor could begin preparations.
The Government will have to decide how much weight to place on objections.
If it decides to institute a public inquiry, a Government inspector would review the entire application.
If the plans are approved with no major delay, work is scheduled to begin early in 2008..
The contractor has agreed to complete the work in three years, meaning the relief road could be officially opened in 2011.