HOPES of bringing the Dorset Belle pleasure boat to Swanage this year have been dashed after its operator was unable to use the town’s pier.

Dave Wilcock, who brought back the 38-year-old craft to run cruises from Bournemouth Pier, says he had intended to build up a service to Swanage.

But he was told there was not enough capacity at the volunteer-run Swanage Pier, which is already committed to hosting City Cruises trips arriving from Poole.

READ MORE: Dorset Belle pleasure cruises return to Bournemouth Pier for the first time in nearly a decade

Mr Wilcox had run trips to the town in the past two seasons, including taking school parties yo Dancing Ledge, but could not commit to regular, frequent services.

“You’ve got to build up your business,” he said.

“City Cruises have been running back and forward with a boat for many years and understandably they sponsor the pier and they’ve got the kiosk the pier and everything else.

“For me to fill a boat and take it back to Bournemouth, I just didn’t have the numbers, as much as we’d like, but this is something that would take a few years to build. You don’t do it overnight.”

He said he had hoped for a conversation about how the business could be built up, but Swanage Pier Trust had turned down any future berthings this year.

He understood the pier trust was having trouble finding enough volunteer staff to deal with the Dorset Belle visits at a time when City Cruises was adding an extra boat.

“I can understand the staff problem but when they’ve got so much money from the Heritage Lottery Foundation to keep that pier going, to rely on retired people to do the job for them or people who offer their services for nothing, that’s all well and good but you’ve got to run something like Swanage Pier as a business,” he said.

He said the lack of trips this summer was disappointing for schools who had hoped to take trips.

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“It’s not all about the money, it’s about working for the local community which is what I’ve always wanted to do,” he added.

Ben Adeney, chief executive of Swanage Pier Trust, said: “This is a capacity issue. A lot of what we do is done by our volunteers and we work very closely with lots of our operators.

“We always have consultations with all our operators and we had made them aware about capacity some time back,” he added.