REPAIR work on Weymouth’s harbour will not be finished until May at the earliest.

Condor Ferries, which originally hoped to resume sailings in March, will not return until the repairs are finalised.

The borough’s management committee yesterday agreed to spend £3,920,000 repairing the crumbling quayside wall–double the original estimate.

The work is scheduled to start at the end of November and will take at least 24 weeks to complete.

Council chiefs are in a race against time to fix the quay so Condor Ferries can restart its cross Channel sailings It is estimated that the ferry operation brings in £650,000 to he local economy each year.

Councillors voted to award the contract to Balfour Beatty Civil Engineers, subject to a 10-day standstill period.

Councillor Gill Taylor said the increase from the initial estimate of £2million was because more extensive work will be carried out.

She said: “The increase in value is largely due to changes in the tender – we were advised to do more extensive work to make the harbour useable.

“The length we are doing repairs on has increased and we are also putting a concrete mattress across the harbour to prevent the problem reoccurring.”

Condor switched its crossings to Poole in February after concerns were raised about the harbour wall.

But some members at yesterday’s meeting expressed concerns that the total cost could spiral to £8 million.

Councillor Ian Bruce said he wanted definite assurances that the ferries would be resuming.

He said: “We are at a point with Condor where we need to say we want to know they are definitely coming back.

“We should put it to them that we are going to go forward with additional improvements and that the funding will come from them as well.”

Councillor Geoff Petherick said the £3.9million was the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and estimated the total cost of the redevelopment would be around £8million.

He said: “Realistically the payback will take 80 years.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg.

“My estimate has always been £8million and first of all it was going to be £2million but now it’s gone up to £4million.”

The work will initially be paid for by cash reserves but council off-icers said the council will probably have to borrow the money and estimate it will take 40 years to repay.

‘Our intention to return’

Captain Fran Collins, operations director at Condor Ferries, said: “Condor Ferries is pleased that Weymouth and Portland Borough Council has decided to approve the plan to go ahead with the works to repair the harbour wall.

“We will continue to liaise closely with the council to confirm the timescales of the work involved. his is an important step toward the long term aim of developing Weymouth as the gateway to the Channel Islands, with the appropriate modern port facilities.

“It is our long term intention to return to operating regular sailings from Weymouth, once the works to restore the ferry port have been completed.”