Redevelopment plans for the Weymouth peninsula scheme appear to have been thrown into doubt as council chiefs examine other ideas for the site – including a new ferry service.

Dorset Council's latest stance on the key harbour gateway site has been revealed as it signalled initial support for the idea of re-establishing a ferry service from the town to the Channel Islands.

The council said there were 'no plans' for the peninsula leisure scheme as work had been delayed due to the pandemic, and instead it was looking at other options.

Plans for the site remain 'under review' following the Covid-19 crisis, said the councillor who has responsibility for this matter.

The response came after the idea of resurrecting a ferry link from Weymouth port was being investigated by town councillor Jan Bergman who has received favourable responses from ferry companies and officials in Guernsey in his enquiries.

The ferry companies which have expressed an interest in holding discussions have been revealed as Brittany Ferries and Red Funnel.

Cllr Bergman, who has been inundated with calls and messages of support since the Echo story on his proposal last week, was due to give a presentation at a Weymouth Town Council meeting last night and ask fellow members to back taking the idea forward.

It is proposed that a 'task force' be established to investigate the feasibility of a ferry service in more depth, while taking into account that any potential service should be compatible with the pedestrianisation of the harbourside, and that Dorset Council or the town council should not subsidise a service.

If the idea is supported and moves are progressed it would need agreement from Dorset Council which runs the harbour.

Cllr Ray Bryan, Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment at Dorset Council said: "We welcome discussions with operators about the future of ferries at Weymouth which may bring benefits to the local economy.

"Work on the peninsula has been delayed by Covid-19 so there are currently no plans for the site."

He added: "We are certain that other fantastic options for the peninsula will emerge and we will support whatever offers the best possibilities for the future of the town, be that a ferry or another use. We look forward to hearing the outcome of Weymouth Town Council’s discussion.”

When pressed on what this would mean for the future of the peninsula scheme, Cllr Bryan would only say: “Plans for the peninsula remain under review following the Covid-19 crisis.”

Dorset Council declined to discuss the matter further.

The Echo reported last September that the future of the peninsula development was officially under review as part of a wider review of the council's key development sites in Weymouth town centre.

The council said at the time in response to this that as a result of local government reorganisation all programmes, projects and assets were being reviewed and it was 'good practice' to do so.

Phase one of the scheme includes a hotel, a pub with rooms and the walkway around the peninsula site, with phase 2 listed as ‘further leisure units.’

Hoteliers and some restaurant owners in the town have opposed the development scheme claiming it will encourage trade away from them and ‘hollow out’ the town centre.

Around £6 million of public money has been set aside for the initial phases of the peninsula scheme – including a £3.9 million Coastal Communities Fund grant which has to be spent by the end of March 2021.

Work has been completed on strengthening a section of harbour wall near the Pavilion which is part of the project, and several buildings on the site have already been demolished, including the former terminal building.

Brittany Ferries did not want to comment further when approached by the Echo.

Fran Collins, CEO of Red Funnel, said: “As in my response to Cllr Bergman’s letter, we would be happy to have a high-level discussion to understand more about the council’s aspirations for Weymouth port.

"At this stage no discussions or similar have taken place, nor has the council shared any detail of its thoughts regarding routes or timetables.”