Businesses are being encouraged to join a forum to breathe new life into Weymouth and Portland.

The idea was put forward by South Dorset MP, Richard Drax, at a meeting with businessmen and women in the borough.

Mr Drax said that the idea was discussed at the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce annual Christmas lunch and was now moving forward.

Mr Drax said: “I had the first meeting that I had asked to be set-up with some business leaders in your community. I felt everyone was doing all the right things, but in their individual cycles and together we would be far stronger than apart.

“So that’s the principle I thought of and in the North of England they have done something similar and it’s working really quite well, where a board has been established by business people and they’re representing their community.

“I proposed to them (at the meeting) that if we had a business forum, that had a business plan for 70 to 80 years, would you be interested in setting up something?

“I was a little bit unsure whether I’d be booed out of Portland Heights.

“But it started well and ended even better. And Bill Reeves, the very able CEO of Portland Port, has grabbed the bull by the horns and will have his first meeting in January next year.

“They also selected a board.

“They will then sit in a room where they set out what are the aims, ambitions, priorities for Weymouth and Portland and say ‘what do we want for the next 70 to 80 years in terms of services, tourism, industry?’

“They will be making a plan, then the idea is that they go to you, the small business people, but together with this organisation you could punch much more above your weight.”

He added: “Why has it taken 52 years to build a relief road?

“Why is it going to take five, ten to 15 years to build a Western Relief Road?”

“One businessman at the meeting, who will remain unnamed, said his associates come down here and make a point of not staying here.

“Another businessman said; ‘my associates come down here and they don’t stay here either.’ This is really seriously wrong. Something is going wrong.”

“Now I can’t do it on my own, the politicians can’t do it on their own and the officers can’t do it on their own.

“And frankly if I said anything half the number of people would say ‘He’s talking out of his back end because he’s a Tory.’ So why don’t we put politics aside and give it to you, who know what you really want, whether it be a relief road, better hotels, better rail connections whatever it be,” he said.

Mr Drax added: “What it takes is an effort from all of us to say to those in power ‘do something,’ this is what we want.

“And if a team of businessmen said ‘we want a Western Relief Road’ – the reaction from people in this town would be very different than if I said it.”

Bill Reeves of Portland Port will sit on the board of the new business forum.

He said: “Richard Drax came up with the initiative, I am simply responding with other businessmen to what’s a really great idea.

“This is an opportunity for the business community to have an input into strategic planning for Dorset.

“We’re about to have two new unitary authorities, one covering the rural area and the other covering the conurbation. We will be working hard to have a constructive input into the authority covering rural Dorset which will be led by Matt Prosser.

“We will be aiming to make sure business needs are understood, so we’re able to make a constructive contribution.”

He said the new business forum will hold its first meeting in January next year.

Mickey Jones, Chief Executive of DJ Property in Weymouth, also said he will be participating in the new business forum.

He said: “My philosophy is if I can help promote and support Weymouth, it will be good for my business.

“However, it’s all about focus, there’s no point is having a discussion group that doesn’t do anything. And there’s no point in throwing membership far and wide. To be successful they need to get key business involved.”

He added that it’s critical the council listens to the needs of the local business community.