PURBECK District Council members have voted unanimously to object to the proposed Sandbanks Ferry toll increases.

Council leader Gary Suttle has written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to make the authority's objections clear.

In his letter, Cllr Suttle has expressed concern that proposed increases will have a detrimental impact on local residents who rely on the chain ferry to get to and from work, therefore further impacting the local economy.

Ferry operator Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company is consulting on proposals to increase tolls up to 2022. If approved the foot passenger charge would double to £2, with car tolls increasing from £4.30 to £6, and HGV and buses raising from £8.60 to £12.

Ferry bosses say the rise in fares are needed to meet increased costs of running the service, and to help fund a replacement ferry in the future.

However, Cllr Suttle said: "The rate of inflation as of December 2017 was three per cent. All of the proposed increased, with the exception of books of tickets, in April 2018 are above three per cent with some as high as 33 per cent.

"With Purbeck having some of the lowest wages in the South West and with a significant number of jobs in the tourist industry that are traditionally low paid, this adds an additional cost in getting to and from work - in some cases an extra £21 a week by 2022."

District leaders also harbour concerns about how increased toll fares could impact Purbeck's road network.

"The only alternative route is a 20 mile road trip on a road that passes through several villages that are already congested at peak times, but particularly in the summer months, " said Cllr Suttle. "The additional road traffic will contribute to increased pollution, and would contradict the government's policy of improving air quality."

It is up to the Secretary of State to decide whether or not to approve the ferry company’s application to raise the tolls. However, the Council believes the Secretary of State would be acting unreasonably if he were to approve them.

Cllr Suttle has also drawn the Mr Grayling's attention to the company accounts which, he says, shows a significant dividend has been paid to shareholders over the years, with no prudential allocation to ferry reserves despite the company knowing it will eventually reach the end of its useful life in 2026.

He added: "While the council understands that some increases are necessary to meet operational costs and a ferry reserve is required, it requests that the company re-submit its application to propose fare increases that are closer to inflation with some of the costs for the new ferry financed by a reduced dividend to the shareholders."

Anyone having a substantial interest on the issue may object to the application up until April 3 by giving notice via email to nationalcasework@dft.gsi.gov.uk or in writing to the Secretary of State at the Department for Transport.