PLANS are being drawn up in an attempt to move towards a traffic-free Weymouth town centre.

Discussions are at an early stage – but councillors say they are keen to reduce the amount of vehicles moving through central Weymouth in the daytime.

This includes stopping the side streets such as Maiden Street, East Street and Bond Street being used as ‘rat-runs’, and discouraging motorists from driving around seeking a parking space.

Access will be maintained for residents and businesses and the seafront and harbourside would remain open to traffic, it is understood.

The idea would be to try and stop through traffic in daytime hours –times yet to be agreed – in the main town centre area.

A consultation will be carried out to obtain views before any measures are introduced.

A trial scheme could take place as early as this autumn as councillors investigate ways to make the town safer and more attractive for pedestrians.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council is keen to discuss ideas with Dorset County Council, which is the highways authority, and Dorset Police.

Councillors want to see the bollards back in place to prevent unauthorised traffic going down St Mary Street and St Thomas Street, as well as stopping vehicles ‘criss-crossing’ the shopping streets.

They also want to stop unauthorised vehicles accessing the bottom half of St Thomas Street from Lower St Alban Street.

Public art for the town centre is also being explored to improve the environment.

Leader of the borough council Jeff Cant said it was about pedestrians ‘regaining ownership’ of the town centre.

He said: “I am very anxious to progress this. I am hoping by the June management committee we will have a report about a pedestrianisation proposal.”

Cllr Cant added: “It follows on from the Olympics in 2012 when we had the Esplanade shut off.

“We wouldn’t want to close the seafront but we would like to see the main areas being properly pedestrianised and the side streets stop being used as rat-runs.

“This would be done in the shopping hours so people can walk about safely. It’s about making it a safer and pleasant experience and links in with the work we are doing on regeneration of the town centre and improving the public realm.”

Transport and infrastructure spokesman for the council Cllr Colin Huckle said although much of the town centre was pedestrianised anyway, there was a drive to try and make areas safer and reduce the amount of traffic going into the centre.

He said: “It does need a bit of thought into how we tackle this.

"It’s not going to happen immediately but ideas are being explored and we do need a proper sit down with the county council to discuss this. On-street parking, residents’ permits – there’s a lot of issues that need to be addressed.

“We do need to discourage people, particularly visitors, from going into the centre to park.

"There are plenty of parking areas – Melcombe Regis and Park Street car parks for example – without going into the centre.

"You see people driving round and round looking for a space. For the amount of petrol they've used they may as well have bought a parking ticket."