A VALUABLE information centre closing and relocating to a nearby pub has been branded a ‘backward step’.

The town's main source of in-person tourist information, the Weymouth Information Shop (WIS) in St Mary Street, has closed its doors due to a lack of funding with the lease for the premises about to be renewed.

The shop opened in May 2022 and has been providing the town with a community meeting place, an information and advice hub on a range of issues, as well as 'what's on' and tourist information.

It's  a collaboration between Weymouth Area Development Trust (WADT), Age UK NSW Dorset, #HelpAndKindness and Volunteer Centre Dorset. 

No reason was given for the closure, but the people behind it say it will continue to operate but hosted by another business. From next month it will be based in Dry Dock, an alcohol-free pub in St Thomas Street.

However, the decision to downsize has led to calls for a ‘proper’ tourism information centre to be created in the town.

READ: New tourist information centre in Weymouth town centre

Dorset Echo: The Weymouth Information Shop on St Mary's Street is now closed before relocating The Weymouth Information Shop on St Mary's Street is now closed before relocating (Image: WADT)

David Johnston, a former member of the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce who has campaigned for proper tourism information facilities, said: “When the WIS opened it was never intended to a be TIC, but, gradually, it began to appear on one side of the store.

“It should never have been one but thank goodness it has, because it’s been invaluable."

He added: “I am told that the original concept is being rehoused in a much-reduced space within the Dry Dock in St Thomas Street.

"Given the importance of our significant reliance on visitors, it is a further step backwards."

Dorset Echo: Visitor information, advice and signposting to wellbeing, community and health services will contniue to be provided Visitor information, advice and signposting to wellbeing, community and health services will contniue to be provided (Image: Weymouth Area Development Trust)

The WIS confirmed it will continue to provide all its services including visitor information.

It says that the move to Dry Dock will give it access to even more support networks and the possibility of longer opening hours.

But Mr Johnston believes that relocation is not a prominent location for tourists to find and that the council should step in.

He added: “The proper place is where the tourist information centre was on the seafront near the King’s Statue.

"The council should consider their priorities and find some premises near to it, to provide a TIC."

He added: “Over in Bridport, there is just about the best TIC I have come across, based in Bucky Doo Square. 

“It's a credit to Bridport Town Council who finance this vital service.”

READ: Proposals for new tourist information centre in Weymouth

Chris Wilson of WADT said:  “Some people still seem to think we are the council. We are not.

"We are a group of independent, not for profits, charities, community groups and volunteers working together to make best use of resources.

“We are very grateful to the Weymouth Town Council community grants, and Wessex Water community grants for their contributions to our second year."

Weymouth Town Council has said that it has provided £5,000 to WADT over the past two years

The town council has considered TIC options but believes that its contribution to the WIS fulfilled its requirements, focusing its funding on one facility rather than two.

A Weymouth Town Council spokesperson, said: “The Weymouth Information Shop is a great resource which shares details about the council's services and events, as well as signposting people to all sorts of help and advice as well as providing handy information for tourists.

"We wish them all the very best with their relocation plans.”

The WIS offers many other services that include outreach work from providers such as voluntary and community organisations, health services and local authority services.

Collectively more than 50 staff from local the voluntary and community sector have been involved in the project donating over 7,000 hours of their time.

Marie Waterman, CEO of Volunteer Centre Dorset, added: The WIS has been a real asset for Weymouth’s High Street allowing people to walk in and get information and help face-to-face.

“In this digital age, so many people still value receiving information either from a person, in printed format, or need help accessing information online.

“We are so proud of the service that has been provided supporting the enquiries of local residents and visitors to Weymouth and we look forward to continuing once established in our new home.”