ANGER erupted at Weymouth Harbour following a shock announcement that the area will be pedestrianised from this Saturday, with plans for a tourist land train along the quay.

A map of the area indicates which areas will benefit from outside seating, and how traffic will be redirected up the Esplanade.

Read more: Cafe and restaurants' support for harbour pedestrianisation scheme

On Tuesday evening Dorset Council revealed it would implement temporary road closures for a 12-week period at Custom House Quay, Trinity Road and Cove Street through to Hope Square.

Dorset Echo:

It is controversial because commercial charter boats and fishermen say the loss of vehicle access will 'decimate' their livelihoods, and fear the changes will become permanent.

However the council says the scheme is being put in place to help with social distancing.

Despite offering assurances to the Echo that businesses and residents would be consulted with, residents say Dorset Council has 'left them in the dark', and that they were not consulted - Dorset Council claims to have held an online consultation.

One community representative said he had been sent a map of the pedestrian scheme by Dorset Council, but was forbidden to share it with the press or public.

The Echo obtained a copy of the map yesterday afternoon, after a group of around 100 locals gathered at the south side of the harbour to voice their opposition.

Richard Bright-Paul, who owns charter dive boat Weymouth Chieftain, said: "This is a working harbour, not a theme park.

"We have around 80 businesses that will lose out - marine engineers, welders, dive shops, takeaways and restaurants - compared to around five pubs and cafés that will benefit.

"It is concerning that a petition with 200 signatures - which represents around 80 per cent of residents and businesses in this small community - that was submitted to Dorset Council, was totally ignored.

"Most plans in this town fail because decisions such as this are made behind closed doors."

Resident Pat Lister said: "Closing the road will draw more people in - I cannot understand how it will facilitate social distancing - we've all seen what's been happening at Durdle Door.

"By not consulting with residents or sharing the plans the council has ridden roughshod over a process that should be democratic. This will be catastrophic for the harbour and the town; it will destroy the jewel in Weymouth's crown. "Covid is being used as a smokescreen to push an agenda - there is nothing social distancing about pedestrianising the harbour.

"Even now, I can't get out of my house due to people eating fish and chips on my doorstep - I say "excuse me" and get insults in return."

Cllr Louie O'Leary said: "I still haven't been sent a plan - we have been left in the dark. They know we have been staunchly opposed to this since the start which is why we've not been sent details.

"There has been next to no engagement, despite us submitting a petition with over 200 signatures against the scheme. The interests of the community are being completely overridden.

"I've never been to a protest in my life until today but Weymouth residents have shown up in force.

"I will fight this until the end - the harbour's 1,000 years of history will all be destroyed if it's allowed to continue."

Mark Bennett, owner of Bennett's Fish and Chips , said: "The benefits of outside seating to my business would not outweigh closing the road because 75 per cent of trade now comes from click and collect, to maintain social distancing. If customers see an 'access only' sign at the top of the road they will go elsewhere and use other chip shops. I do understand there are pros and cons, but I think businesses on the other side of the harbour are most likely to benefit."

Marine business owner Andy Alcock, who supplies fuel to boats at the harbour and also runs charter fishing boats for hobbyists, said: "It will kill my fuel supply business due to the demand for access to berths - as well as the charter fishing boats, because most anglers are aged over 55 - by removing parking I'll have to ask them to walk all the way from a car park with their fishing gear, which will kill the leisure fishing industry. It is grossly unfair - I only found out last night; I feel angry and let down by Dorset Council.

"They are using coronavirus as an excuse and are not representing the people who voted them into power. It is a ludicrous decision."

"It will be the death knell - I'm afraid it's all for the legacy of a few councillors who want to leave their mark and get a plaque with their name on it.

"When it all goes wrong will they still be around or will they hide? Only five pubs will benefit but 80 businesses will lose money.

"I hope it rains all year - it won't stop the fishermen but it will stop the pubs."

Weymouth town councillor Richard Nickinson said: "To bring this scheme into force in just two days' time is ludicrous.

"I'm concerned about the wider impact of the loss of short term parking spaces for people wanting to shop in the town centre.

"Closing the harbour for social distancing is like trying to crack a sledgehammer with a nut. The decision has been rushed through by certain councillors."

In response to our questions on the why the decision was not made at a public committee meeting, a Dorset Council spokesman said: "The Covid-19 response legislation under which we are operating does not require public consultation as we are having to respond very fast to changing guidance from Government.

"Consultation with local businesses has led to the present scheme in Weymouth. On top of this, for the last month we have been running an online consultation on interventions required to ensure that businesses can operate safely as they re-open, and to enable people to continue to walk and cycle safely."

"The final decision to place vehicle restrictions on parts of the harbour was made by Dorset councillors, together with the chair and vice-chair of Dorset Council’s Harbours Committee, with the agreement of the portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment. It was a unanimous decision."

The council said there will be increased police and civil enforcement patrols in the harbour area when the new rules come in on Saturday, "But it is everyone’s social responsibility to adhere to public health guidelines."