A BATTLE is looming over the future of a new road which campaigners claim could be the key to Portland’s future prosperity.

Those backing the scheme want to preserve the line of the Western Relief Route, a controversial link from Chickerell to Ferrybridge which would aid Portland’s growth and reduce congestion through Weymouth.

The route is at risk from a proposed £10m residential development on the Ferrybridge Inn site, where the Western Route would join the Weymouth to Portland road.

Allowing the restaurant and homes plan to go ahead – a revised scheme which was first put forward last year and has since been amended – would block all chances of the road being built.

Weymouth Civic Society says the route, which would bypass Wyke Regis and the Boot Hill corridor, is becoming ‘increasingly necessary’ due to ‘heavy congestion and worsening air quality’ on existing roads.

And Portland Port director Rupert Best said the future expansion of the island’s economy depended on better road links.

The Western Route is the ‘missing link’ in a road network that included the Chickerell Link Road and the Weymouth Relief Road. It was withdrawn by local authorities from development plans but there is a strong feeling that it still has a future and its path must be protected.

But the proposal has come up against a lot of opposition in the past from residents and environmental groups who believe it would have a major impact on the landscape and affect the environmentally-sensitive Fleet.

Ferrybridge Developments LLP says its proposal cannot contravene policies in the local plan safeguarding the route because the road as been deleted from council plans and no alternative scheme has been put forward.

It wants to demolish the pub and build a restaurant/brasserie and 30 homes plus other facilities.

In a letter to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, Weymouth Civic Society plans sub-committee chairman Mike Martin described the Ferrybridge proposal as ‘overdevelopment’ on a restricted site. But he said the primary objection was that it is on the land for the Western Route and development would ‘jeopardise the implementation of this much-needed route.’ Rupert Best said Portland Port was well situated for sea trade but was ‘constrained’ in the handling of cargoes and people by the area’s road network.

He said: “With the building of the Chickerell Link Road and the Weymouth Relief Road the route to the A35 greatly improved but we need a link between Ferrybridge and Chickerell to avoid port-related traffic having to go through the middle of Weymouth. There are 16,000 people on Portland and they and the businesses on the island also need decent communications.

“We are aware of the environmental concerns about the road but we believe they are nothing like as great as has been portrayed.”

Mr Best called on the highway authority and conservationists to work together to come up with a route that satisfies concerns.

Former highways engineer and Portland historian Stuart Morris said the Western Route is ‘needed now more than ever.’ He added: The road may be in limbo at present, having been subject to conflicting policies, but nothing should be permitted which would prevent it ever being built.

Development would be 'damaging'

Director of Conservation at Dorset Wildlife Trust Imogen Davenport said if it was the same scheme as the one proposed previously it would be ‘very damaging environmentally’.

She said: “Dorset Wildlife Trust would object because it crosses and would damage two Sites of Nature Conservation Interest, at Martleaves Farm and Wyke Regis Oyster Farm, and could have a serious impact on the Fleet, a site of international nature conservation importance.”

Borough councillor for Wyke Regis Kate Wheller, pictured, said: “The Fleet is part of an area which is one of the few natural World Heritage Sites and to suggest a road should be built along there is sacrilegious.”

Warden of the Chesil and Fleet Nature Reserve Don Moxom said the Fleet was one of the most protected sites in terms of designations.

Bu the added: “People ought to be clear on the nature conservation issues as opposed to other factors such as green space and the visual impact.”