New vision for our seafront

DOWN THE PROM: The view from the King's Statue looking towards St John's

LOOK AT OUR FRONT: Coun Doug Hollings and Townscape Heritage Initiative officer Sarah Groves with plans for Weymouth seafront

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Dorchester reporter

AN EXCITING new vision for Weymouth's seafront will go on public display today.

Proposed designs for a multi-million-pound regeneration of the Esplanade are going out for public consultation and will be on view at an exhibition at Weymouth Arts Centre over the coming days.

Plans for an Olympic facelift include a new paved square surrounding the George III statue, a new a state-of-the-art tourist information centre building incorporating a 60-seater café/restaurant and a new beach rescue complex.

Other suggested upgrades include work on the Pier Bandstand, wider footways along the 'town' side of the Esplanade to encourage street café culture, refurbishment of the bus interchange with new shelters and new flowerbeds, trees and seating along the promenade.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council's environment spokesman Councillor Doug Hollings said: "These are exciting new proposals that would really bring out the best of Weymouth's iconic Esplanade. In 2012 the eyes of the world will be upon us and it's important that Weymouth and Portland looks its best. This project will give us the chance to make some important improvements to the Esplanade."

The project is building on the Townscape Heritage Initiative that has already seen work carried out on the seafront's shelters and statues.

The intention of the scheme is to develop the promenade as a year-round attraction, while preserving the special character of Weymouth's seafront.

The 'visionary masterplan' for the project says: "The council wishes to ensure that the character of this attractive venue is maintained and developed further, while retaining the unique historic qualities that help to set it apart from other south coast resorts."

The council is now looking to canvas public opinion before it applies for funding from the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA).

Coun Hollings added: "We are hoping to be doing that in the autumn, with a view to getting the project started next year, obviously we have to get it completed for 2012.

"There will be questionnaires which people can fill in and we will then use that as the basis of the bid.

"With 2012 just a few years away we have a fantastic opportunity to make the most out of this important attraction, and provide improved facilities that will leave a lasting economic legacy for the resort.

"I would urge all residents to make the effort and go along to the arts centre to put forward their views."

THI officer Sarah Groves added: "Public consultation is a big part, to get the residents' views. It's difficult to say how they will be received, the repair of the shelters and the statues has been welcomed and this will be on a much larger scale."

The chairman of Weymouth Civic Society, Derek Cope, is urging people to go and see the plans and put their opinions across.

He said: "I shall go and see the plans with interest. We are hoping that the planners will take into account the views of local people.

"It is very much a matter of restoration and conservation that is needed rather than anything new, that will happen later when things happen on the pavilion/ferry terminal site.

"As always though, not everybody is going to be happy with the result."

The plans will be on public display at Weymouth Arts Centre, Commercial Road, until July 24 (excluding Sunday) between 10am and 6pm.

The display boards and questionnaire are also available to download through the council's website at www.weymouth.gov.uk

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