IT may not quite be Venice, but a Christchurch restaurateur is urging the council to agree to his idea of a water taxi to improve evening access to and from Mudeford Sandbank.

Jeremy Carpenter, who co-owns the Beach House eaterie, says his customers are currently leaving early throughout the summer, as the current ferry operator only runs until 10pm.

He is now proposing to run a water taxi service which would not be exclusive to his customers, but for anyone wishing to travel to and from the sandbank between 10pm and midnight.

Jeremy, who is meeting with the Christchurch council this week and hoping they will agree to start a formal tendering process, stressed that he would not be competing with the existing operator, Mudeford Ferry, as he would only run the water taxis after the last ferry has sailed.

He added: "Obviously, it's driven by the Beach House. It's a small business and when the ferry stops running at its current time, my customers just run out the door.

"There is some trade from the huts, which is great, but you can't rely on that small niche. If you come out on a Saturday night in August you don't want to rush out the door at 10pm, but you have to, because of the ferry."

Jeremy said that, for the last two years, he had paid Mudeford Ferry £100 each evening to run a later service, but that he could not continue to meet that cost throughout the summer, so was hoping the council would agree to the alternative idea.

He added: "We have said this to a lot of people, and not one of them has said it's a dumb idea. Everyone agreed there should be something.

"We don't want it to become a party island, or anything like that, it's just to improve access to a cut-off area. It's not just for our customers - it's not exclusive - it's not about that."

Jeremy added that the council had also recognised the need for a private jetty on the sandbank, following last year's row about a 'jettygate' being installed on the pontoon, and that it was something he was looking into.