PLANS to redevelop the Weymouth Pavilion site have been blasted as 'a rape of our heritage' by a former councillor.

Liberal Democrat John Birtwistle, 62, spent three years on the council but lost his Weymouth East seat by just 46 votes to Conservative Roger Allen in last week's elections.

He said he had previously been unable to speak because of his membership of the planning committee but said today: "The Pavilion scheme is gross. It is far too big, it will dominate Weymouth and destroy a lot that we find beautiful."

Mr Birtwistle said that the proposals for hundreds of luxury flats and marina berths, a revamped theatre, a hotel, a World Heritage Centre and a new ferry terminal had been conceived to make the maximum amount of money for developers Howard Holdings.

He added: "It has been pushed through a sham consultation process against the expressed wishes of the public, whether a silent majority or not.

"What has particularly annoyed me is that it didn't seem to matter what the public said. The council officers were going to go ahead with the scheme and refused to offer us any alternative to the Howard Holdings scheme.

"What is the point of having a public consultation exercise on the Pavilion if you then ignore what people say? It is disgraceful."

Early redevelopment ideas for Weymouth Pavilion came as far back as November 2002 in a review of the whole site which eventually saw Howard Holdings selected against Urban Catalyst as the council's preferred developer.

Mr Birtwistle claimed the whole process seemed to have ignored public opinion when what protesters really wanted was a smaller scale development which gave them a new theatre and a new public space such as the Ocean Room without having to include a huge number of luxury flats.

He said of the Howard Holdings scheme: "I am appalled by the connivance of people in the council office with this rape of our heritage.

"You can accuse me of many things but not of failing to care for this borough and for its future.

"I would urge opponents of the present Pavilion scheme not to give up but to make their views known again when a full planning application for the scheme is made.

"We have been promised further public consultation and we have to make sure that this time the council listens to what people say."

Weymouth and Portland planning and traffic committee chairman Coun Doug Hollings strongly denied that there had been any 'sham' consultation process.

He said: "There has been a full and open public consultation process which councillors took into account during their debate on the scheme.

"Having considered all aspects, we decided that the scheme was acceptable in principle and there was certainly no connivance as Mr Birtwistle states.

"When we get a full planning application for the scheme, hopefully later this summer, we will be able to pay attention to the specific design and details of the scheme.

"Again there will be public consultation over this part of the development which will give us and members of the public a chance to have our say on the design details to ensure that the scheme is a credit to the town and that it fits in with our historic heritage."

He also denied that the scheme was just a vehicle to give developers huge profits and said: "We have a very important site here which will provide some very important public facilities such as the theatre and the whole package is a key part of the future prosperity of the borough."