THE buyer of a historic building in Weymouth has spoken of his vision for developing the harbourside and North Quay site - as well as the pedestrianisation of the harbour.

The former Jehovah's Witness church on High West Street is reportedly Weymouth's oldest coffee tavern, according to property developer Mickey Jones of DJ Property - and he has big plans for the area.

"The history of the building is captivating, and its location is set in the very heart of the original Weymouth town," Mr Jones said.

"The building itself is quirky and distinctive, a real niche type building which offers something different. I'm trying to develop the more interesting waterside sites around the harbour.

The Weymouth-based firm is currently converting the former Sharky's building on Custom House Quay into 'Deheers' - a development of luxury accommodation above commercial space, potentially for a restaurant, café or similar.

DJ Property is better known as the firm behind Weymouth's Granby and Link Park industrial estates - but Mr Jones wants to broaden its horizons, with a vision to develop Weymouth's waterfront.

"I would relish the opportunity to work with Dorset Council on their North Quay site, I really would," he said.

"Through the properties I own by the harbourside and Deheers I've assembled quite a strong team of people and that team can be used to develop other waterside locations.

"It's a new area for me but it's an interesting area - Weymouth vitally needs development. Just look at how many waterside sites the council has got - the Pavilion peninsula and North Quay being the main two - those haven't gone anywhere for years.

"What I'm saying to the council is - come and talk to me - I'm one of the few people locally with the ability and the funding to develop those sites."

Mr Jones said his enthusiasm for the project comes from his local connections to the town. He added: "Even if I wasn't involved financially, Weymouth's my home town - I'd like to see those sites developed sympathetically and constructively to benefit the economy and society.

"My family lives in Weymouth and we invest all of our money back into south Dorset."

Mr Jones said he has spoken to the council about his vision.

"In the past it's mainly been a conversation about me commenting and consulting on their plans, but recently it's been very difficult because we've had a complete reorganisation of the councils, then we've had Brexit and now we've got Covid," he said.

"I do feel sympathy for the council - they've not had the time or the mandate to do anything with these sites - but at the point that they do, what I'm saying is, is that I should be one of a number of parties they should be talking to.

"I'm sure the North Quay redevelopment is a priority for the council and that they'll start their plans this year," he added.

"I can see Weymouth's popularity increasing because people aren't going to go abroad on holiday quite so much - while people in the big cities will realise they can work from home, making south Dorset a more attractive place to live.

"Now is the right time to do something with our waterside, because the demand will be there."

Recent discussions around possible pedestrianisation of the harbourside have proved controversial - commercial marine businesses fear the loss of 24-hour access could be a 'death-knell' to the fishing industry.

However Mr Jones hopes a solution can be found for marine and hospitality businesses to co-exist.

"They both need each other - the reason Weymouth is so picturesque and so desirable is because it's a working harbour - if we allow (fishing boats) to leave then we've just lost the jewel in our crown," he said.

"There are very simple ways to manage traffic if you look at other towns and cities - you can have a situation whereby commercial vehicles can use the roads, and they can also be used for pedestrians and cyclists at the same time - whether it's retractable bollards or restricting access hours - there are solutions.

"What we're trying to remove is the volume of passenger cars - but I wouldn't propose anything that would limit or remove the access for businesses.

"We can have our cake and eat it here."