CHARGING drivers to use roads could have a devastating effect on resorts like Poole and Bournemouth, says a tourism chief.

Bruce Grant-Braham, chairman of Poole Tourism Partnership, has voiced his opposition to controversial congestion charging, ahead of a meeting of Poole and Bournemouth tourism boards today.

He has asked for the red-hot issue to be discussed at the joint meeting, following the option being included in consultation on the South East Dorset Transport Study – which raised an outcry from Daily Echo readers.

“We are in hard times and recognised as such,” he said. “The hospitality industry locally is going to be clobbered by higher VAT – everybody has that. But with the potential of congestion charges as well, that’s a major incentive to go to other areas on holiday.”

He added: “One of the ironies to me is that some of the worst congestion in recent years was caused by the transport study polling people on the main roads to Bournemouth and Poole.”

“If they’re looking for imaginative ideas, we’ve been banging on about a water taxi service to Poole, Bournemouth and Boscombe.”

If it operated only half the year during the holiday season, it could have an effect on the areas roads, he said. “Tourists are people driving around the conurbation as much as anybody else.”

While congestion charges are not currently the policy of Poole, Bournemouth or Dorset councils, only Bournemouth’s cabinet member for environment and transport, Cllr Robert Lawton has spoken up to rule out the idea.

“Charging people to drive into Bournemouth town centre has no political support from this Conservative administration,” he said.

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