DORSET Council's cabinet member responsible for the controversial temporary pedestrianisation scheme at Weymouth Harbour has criticised the council's consultation process.

The authority says it has been forced to rush the scheme through so pubs and restaurants can reopen safely today - and that an online consultation provided a 'snapshot' of local opinion in favour of the plan.

However, it has since emerged that only comments in favour of the scheme can be recorded, and a press release promoting the consultation made no mention of Weymouth Harbour.

The council said that as of last week 105 respondents supported the measures. It was later revealed that the consultation was not specifically about the Weymouth Harbour scheme, and took the form of an interactive map of Dorset, where respondents are asked to anonymously report traffic problems in the county.

A Dorset Council highways officer confirmed yesterday that the reported 105 responses in favour includes people who have 'liked' comments left by others. At the time of writing, only 30 people had commented in favour.

Many residents claim they were not informed about a consultation at all - and now the figures have been criticised as "not accurate" by the Dorset Council cabinet member in charge of the harbour, Cllr Ray Bryan.

"The figures are not accurate as I have over 200 signatures on a petition against this," he wrote in an email to a resident.

Speaking to the Echo yesterday, Cllr Bryan added: "I took the petition into account - the views of the people were taken on board in all my discussions - the roads are not being closed - there will be access for both residents and businesses - that's what the petition was about.

"I think we've come up with an excellent compromise. It's never going to suit everybody but is the best in the circumstances."

Previously in an interview with the Echo on June 12, Cllr Bryan had given assurances that no decision would be made until harbour users and other associated businesses had been consulted and would not be adversely impacted.

"The difficulty is we got the instructions from Government last Thursday, and a week later we've got to put everything into operation - there was no time for consultation," he explained.

"Certainly I'm disappointed the time schedule didn't allow for a full consultation to take place but having spent many many hours talking to residents and businesses, and over 400 emails later, I have the views of a broad level of the people of Weymouth."

"I think we've learned some lessons from this but that's life nowadays - unfortunately we've got to get the economy going and protect the residents and businesses, and it's a compromise.

"I apologise that we didn't have time to do a full consultation but I took into account every single email and petition I received before making the decisions.

"I really do regret that we were pushed into a very tight timescale."

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: "There was online consultation about pop up cycle lanes and walk ways across the whole of Dorset, which included Weymouth Harbour. This is where the data quoted yesterday was taken from.

"Our Community Highways Officer has been talking to businesses in the area about the plans since early June. In this instance we would agree that the activity undertaken by our Highways Officer in regard to Weymouth Harbour proposals might have been better described as informal engagement.

"A petition received by the council on 17 June contained 200 signatures opposing complete closure of roads around the harbour. This was submitted before the current plans were drawn up which took into account the need for vehicular access for residents and businesses.

"In an ideal situation the council’s preference would have been to consult fully on the plan which is being implemented, however, we were required by Government to use emergency powers to support socially distanced seating for businesses in light of the current health crisis."