Council chiefs look set to go back to the drawing board on a prominent Weymouth redevelopment site after they pulled the plug on the sale of the North Quay office block.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council is to look at new options for the harbourside site after announcing it would be withdrawing the contract for its sale to developers who wanted to convert it into new apartments.

The decision was prompted after North Quay Weymouth Limited (NQWL) – a firm set up by the developer Acorn South – “failed in its contractual obligation” to complete on the sale of North Quay.

It means the car parks could be opened back up at the site while the council considers the future.

Acorn South was chosen as the preferred developer for the former council offices and contracts were exchanged a year ago.

Campaigners were surprised and disappointed to discover Acorn planned to refurbish the “eyesore” building instead of knock it down and build something new.

Acorn, which is in a separate planning dispute with the council about how it wants to go about converting the block, was due to complete the sale at the end of July but, as reported in the Echo, failed to do so.

Discussions have been going on since then, with senior councillors meeting in private to receive updates from officers.

With the scheme stalled, there were calls by campaigners last month for a rethink on the scheme.

At a management committee meeting on Tuesday, leader of the council Jeff Cant spoke of his concerns about using capital receipts to support a particular project when the North Quay site had not been sold. 

The committee later discussed North Quay behind closed doors and yesterday the council announced it had decided to rescind the contract.

Cllr Cant said: “This is of course a great disappointment to all the councillors and officers who have worked so hard to complete this sale.

“We will now look at other options for this flagship site. 

“We remain committed to developing the north side of the harbour to support the town and the local economy.”

The council says it will keep residents “informed as possible in the process of this sale”.

A spokesman said: “But at times it will be necessary to take decisions in confidential sessions. 

“This is because of the commercial and legal process.”

The current car parking arrangements at North Quay are also being reviewed as part of the discussions.

Campaigners hail 'good news'

HISTORIAN Mark Vine is thrilled the sale is off as he believes it’s a new opportunity to look at the site afresh – and conduct a full excavation beneath North Quay, site of the old Weymouth high street.

Mr Vine said: "It should be offered to a developer which will plan with vision. That vision should be to reinstate the old high street and fill it with architecture which is sympathetic to the history all around.

“The site is unique and offers the very last chance for us to find out about the origins and development of Weymouth.”

Resident Graham Perry has also been a vocal campaigner and is involved with a new business along North Quay.

 He said: "It is extremely good news.

“The immediate concern of businesses in the area will be to get the car parks operating again.

“From a personal point of view, whatever the development, it would be good to see the road moved away from the quayside.

“Let us just hope that the next plan fulfils the spirit of the masterplan.”

Borough councillor Jon Orrell led a demonstration supporting a ‘sympathetic’ redevelopment of North Quay last year. He called for a rethink on the plan at a meeting last month when the sale stalled.

On the latest development Cllr Orrell said councillors were unable to comment on the matter at this stage citing “legal reasons”.