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Fury at West Bay meeting on road enhancement scheme
West Bay residents and businesses have reacted with fury and frustration over the £650,000 “enhancement” scheme which they say has left the harbour “like a war zone”.
More than 100 people flocked to a public meeting chaired by West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin and their anger erupted into jeers of derision when they learned that no local authority officers had agreed to turn up to hear their concerns.
Locals reacted with disbelief when told that one of the main objectives of the new traffic management scheme currently being installed was to deliberately discourage cars from reaching the harbourside.
The standing-room-only meeting at St John's Church was prompted by months of disruption as the road layout has been changed and roads closed and fears for the future of the Bay if trippers find it increasingly difficult to reach Bridport's harbour as the hoped-for “Broadchurch effect” kicks in.
And the strength of feeling was such that there was even support to investigate moves for West Bay to split from Bridport town and set up its own parish council.
Most controversial issues in the latest scheme are a “pinch point” outside the Haddon House Hotel to restrict traffic flow and changing the road priority away from the harbour to Station Road by making it what people claimed was a confusing and potentially dangerous new junction.
So-called “pedestrian friendly” paved areas were also slated.
A panel representing businesses, residents, shops and restaurants and hoteliers spoke of their concerns and fears that the new road layout will end in tragedy and claimed that consultation had simply “paid lip service” to local needs.
Lindsey Blair, the proprietor of Harbour Stores, the Quarter Deck bar and Durbeyfield Guest House said: “No consultation led us to believe that the Bay would become a sort of war zone and when we saw the plans we were not ready for what happened. West Bay was inaccessible for the half term and the closure signs remained in place all night and at weekends.
“After the work is over, we will find that people are having to queue to get in to the Bay as we are told that the whole point is to discourage people from going to the harbour. Queues will reach back to the Crown roundabout and West Bay will have no chance at all and we do not want a sign on West Bay road, saying no access to the harbour, which is what we are told we are going to get.
“All of us who make a living here, because of the very nature of West Bay, will find the nature of West Bay will change. Something has to be done before it is too late.”
Oliver Letwin said the meeting had been “immensely useful”.
He said:”Clearly there needs to be a proper assessment of what has happened here from the point of view of businesses and residents.”
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