BUSINESSES are making a last-minute plea to council chiefs to safeguard the route of a road they say will aid growth and reduce congestion.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council planners are due to make a decision tomorrow on a multi-million-pound development on the site of the Ferrybridge Inn, on the edge of Weymouth.

Allowing building there would rule out any chance of the Western Relief Route being built between Ferrybridge and Chickerell.

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 It was withdrawn by local authorities from development plans but there is a strong feeling it still has a future and its path must be protected.

The controversial route passes close to the environmentally-sensitive Fleet.

But supporters say better road links bypassing the congested Wyke Regis corridor would boost Portland’s economy.

Bosses at Portland Port compiled a questionnaire for islanders asking for views.

From the 200 it sent out, 54 were returned all supporting proper debate and consultation on the Western Relief Route.

Firms supporting the debate include Sunsee-ker International, Hull Gregson & Hull Portland Ltd, The Boat That Rocks, The Heights Hotel, Osprey Leisure Centre and Manor Marine.

Portland Port’s commercial manager Ian McQuade said: “If the Ferrybridge proposal goes through on Wednesday that means the road will never happen.

“This would spell disaster for Portland’s local economy, and the buoyancy of the regional economy.

“We have over 50 businesses and residents telling us they want a proper debate, consultation and evidence informing decisions by Dorset County Council, Wey-mouth and Portland Borough Council, and West Dorset District Council regarding issues on highways connections to Portland. We need them to listen to us before it is too late.”

Angie Mustill of the Heights Hotel said: “This would be a vital link that would assist with tourism to Portland. Our customers regularly complain about the congestion and delays in getting directly to the island.”

And Deborah Sare, who runs Contemporary Cottages, said: “It is absolutely crazy to let this development go ahead and lose the option of the road altogether.”

Weymouth Civic Society also believes the path of the route should be protected, saying the road was becoming ‘increasingly necessary.’

Restaurant And Homes Scheme

A REPORT to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s planning and traffic committee backs the Ferrybridge Inn scheme, subject to conditions including further investigations into contributions towards off-site affordable housing.

The application involves demolishing the pub and building a restaurant and 30-unit residential development.

Comments from Dorset County Council as the highway authority are included in the report.

It says it has not been possible to continue to reserve the Western Relief Route corridor in development plans because there is no funding available and it is unlikely the road will get permission because of its proximity to sensitive sites.

There is an ‘aspiration’ to relieve the A354 through Rodwell and Wyke but this won’t be done before 2026.

The county council says if it were to block the pub plan to preserve the path of the road it would be slapped with a blight notice to compensate the owner for the development value of the land, running into millions.