Proposals for a Western relief road along the Fleet from Wyke Regis are unachievable – unless the Government has a change of heart.

Dorset Council’s brief holder for highways, Cllr Ray Bryan, says that the local priority will now have to switch to reducing traffic and encouraging other forms of transport. He says that the Government has made it clear that any new road building must be a last resort.

“Until the A354 between Weymouth and Portland is recognised by Government as being crucial to driving economic growth in Dorset and adds it to the Major Road Network, there will be no Government funding available for a new road to bypass it.  Without this recognition and funding any proposed scheme is unachievable.

“Dorset Council has made this case but it has not been accepted,” he told an online Dorset Council meeting.

The Cabinet member was responding to a question from local councillors Susan Cocking, Rob Hughes, John Worth and Louie O’Leary.

In it they said: “With Portland Port doing so well over the past couple of years, and a potential rebirth of our fishing industry on the cards as well as the need to protect the remaining high skills jobs we have many based on Portland and the Granby Industrial Estate will this council actively commit to fight for the Western relief road?”

They claimed that the route had the backing of business and many residents plagued by living close to congested roads.

“It’s time to bring Weymouth Portland and Chickerell forward and complete this vital missing link in the puzzle of economic pro-growth and diversity. This road has other benefits it will take traffic out of residential roads in Rodwell and Wyke, make the school run in those areas safer for thousands of school children, stop the rat run along South Harbourside and Cross Road, reduce air pollution on Boot Hill and return Lanehouse Rocks Road to a quieter state. Please commit to fight for this vitally important route we need to show central government that we mean business.”

But Cllr Bryan said the Government had made it very clear that road building should be the last resort in any area’s transport strategy.

“Highway authorities must exhaust all other opportunities to reduce traffic on the road that is proposed to be bypassed to reduce environmental damage. We need to be changing our outlook and behaviour to take unnecessary short-distance car journeys off the road by providing alternative, safe and reliable modes of travel.

“In line with the Government’s plans to de-carbonise our transport system and Dorset Council’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Action Plan, our ongoing work along this route includes investment in walking and cycling options, review of parking and loading restrictions to help the flow of traffic - particularly to improve bus and HGV journey time reliability and consideration of junction improvements.

“This year’s pandemic has clearly affected travel behaviour and indeed whether people travel at all.  Home working, online shopping, increased walking, cycling and staggered school times have changed travel patterns meaning less peak time congestion and improved journey times at certain times of day. Government is keen to lock in the health and economic benefits of improved air quality and increased physical activity by delivering active travel schemes and this is our current focus for Weymouth,” he said.