Dorset Council has made a U-turn on its decision to hire a London-based company to manage crowds around Weymouth harbourside while the area is pedestrianised.

As reported, the council brought a security company in to manage crowds as hospitality businesses open - but three well-established local firms - say they were not given the opportunity to apply for the contract.

The council says it has now contacted local security companies and have awarded the crowd management contract to a local firm.

It’s also made changes to some of the temporary restrictions in place around the harbour after a furious backlash from some residents, fishermen and business owners.

Last week, the council put measures in place at Weymouth Harbour it said would enable businesses to re-open safely and encourage effective social distancing.

But they were met with mixed reaction. While many supported the temporary pedestrianisation – which allows businesses to place tables on the street – others were angry and claimed there had been a lack of consultation.

Yesterday, the council said it received a petition on June 17 containing more than 200 signatures which opposed closure of roads around the harbour.

It said the temporary restrictions have since been modified to take these comments into account, and as such, vehicular access for residents and businesses are not affected. It said this would help local businesses open safely.

It added that the layout now includes more signage which make it clearer which users have access into the affected areas.

To help with congestion along the Esplanade, warning signs on the access roads into Weymouth are now in place. The permanent variable message signs (VMS) on the A354 relief road will display messages about the harbourside before motorists arrive in Weymouth.

It comes after gridlock traffic in Weymouth this week, a knock-on effect of the new pedestrianisation scheme.

A variable message sign has been sited at the Pier Bandstand end of the Esplanade which will show localised information depending on the level of traffic.

The council has also made assurances that permanent pedestrianisation of the harbour area would require full public consultation, and said it was never its intention to introduce permanent pedestrianisation.

It said Zone L permit holders may use permits in North Quay and Nothe Car parks for the duration of the temporary measures. It has also tried to create some additional Zone F permit holder spaces along Custom House Quay by making them ‘permit only’.

A spokesman said: “The handling of these temporary traffic restrictions was driven by a very short Government notice period to further relax lockdown and allow for social distancing. It simply was not possible to use normal and lengthy public consultation. The principle objective was to help businesses re-open with safe places to eat and drink outside of the premises.

We very much appreciate everyone’s cooperation with these temporary measures and wish everyone a safe weekend ahead.”

It comes as the council also reassured local people it has measures in place across the county to cope with any influx of visitors to Dorset this weekend.

Now that most pubs, restaurants, bars, hotels and B&B businesses are open, it is expecting Dorset to be busy, especially as the weather forecast is looking good.

Coastal towns and rural beaches are obvious hotspots and the council says it is ‘confident it has robust plans in place,’ working alongside its partners, to manage the potential for high numbers of visitors across Dorset.

Anyone planning a day out is encouraged to plan ahead before setting off on a day trip and find out where you might park when you reach your destination.

The council is also reminding visitors to be respectful to our local communities by not using disposable BBQs, taking litter home and to please park considerately.

“Everyone should still be maintaining social distancing and keeping up with good hand washing practices whether on the beach, in a pub or out shopping,” a spokesman said.