NEW calls are being made today for authorities to push for the Western Route relief road to help alleviate congestion and boost the south Dorset economy.

Supporters of the Chickerell-Ferrybridge link say the route is needed now more than ever to help the area prosper and improve quality of life for residents who have to put up with traffic queues and pollution.

Campaigners say there is a renewed impetus for road-building projects following the Prime Minister's announcement to put jobs and infrastructure at the centre of the government's economic growth strategy. Improving transport links is key to fuelling economic recovery.

Plans for the congestion-busting Western route, or Jurassic Coast Highway, have been in the pipeline for years but without any financial commitment. It is not included in the local plan for future growth.

Supporters say the road, which would cost hundreds of millions of pounds to build, is necessary to meet rising tourist and business demands – including the growth of Portland Port – as well as providing relief to the congested A354 corridor.

It would link the A354 at Ferrybridge with the B3157 Chickerell Road at the Link Road junction, bypassing the A354 through built-up areas including Boot Hill and Wyke Regis. The road would encroach on a sensitive nature site along the Fleet but supporters believe it can be constructed sympathetically with minimal environmental impact.

CEO of Portland Harbour Authority Bill Reeves said: "The pandemic changed all our lives and reset our priorities. We have seen nothing like it in our lifetimes.

"I look forward to hearing the government’s plans for a financial stimulus package aimed at preventing a recession turning into a depression. The plans need to be bold and include additional infrastructure spending over and above that which has been previously planned.

"Projects such as the Jurassic Coast Highway are perfect for this purpose. They bring some highly skilled employment in the short term for the surveys, studies and design work, and then a significant boost to employment and the economy when construction work starts. Once complete such projects help improve productivity in UK PLC. The Jurassic Coast Highway would relieve the pressure on Boot Hill and the A354 through Wyke, as well as supporting the continued development and growth of Portland Port and other businesses in the area, particularly those on Portland and Osprey Quay."

A renewed push for the road to be put back on the agenda was set to be made by local councillors before the pandemic by local councillors.

County councillor Louie O'Leary said the road was needed 'now more than ever'.

He said: "To not build the road would leave thousands living in congested misery and condemn any long term economic investment into Weymouth. We've seen to many lost opportunities in Weymouth due to poor transport links."

Property developer Mickey Jones said the climate was right for the government to support the road, with the Prime Minister having a big Commons majority and the government keen to support infrastructure projects to boost the economy.

He added: "The road would make a big difference to south Dorset.

"It needs to get into the local plan and it needs to be funded. If there's a will from Dorset Council and support from local people then why not? The time is right."

Dorset Council told the Echo earlier this year that until the A354 between Weymouth and Portland is recognised by Government as a strategic route and added to the Major Road Network there will be no Government funding available for a road to bypass it.

Ministers have previously told councils that road building should be the last resort, with highway authorities first exhausting all opportunities to reduce traffic on the road that is proposed to be bypassed; rather than relying on road expansion to solve issues of congestion.

Dorset Council's ongoing work along this route includes investing in walking and cycling options, reviewing parking and loading restrictions to help the flow of traffic and considering improvements to pinch point junctions.

Cllr Gary Suttle, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth and Skills, said at the end of June: “We welcome Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s comments regarding the country building its way back to health. We will assess the situation once we have more information about his plans, in terms of the potential scale of investment and priorities.”