A PUBLIC inquiry into proposed toll increases on the Sandbanks Ferry will take place later this month.

An independent inspector has been appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, to hold the inquiry after the ferry operator, Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company, submitted an application earlier this year to the Department for Transport (DfT) to raise fares.

If approved the foot passenger and cycle charge would double to £2, with car tolls increasing from £4.30 to £6 and tolls for HGVs and buses increasing from £8.60 to £12.

Members of Purbeck District Council voted unanimously to object to the proposed increases, while council leader Gary Suttle wrote to the DfT to make the council’s objections clear.

In his letter, Cllr Suttle expressed the council’s concerns that the proposed increases would only benefit the company and have a detrimental impact on local residents who rely on the ferry to get to and from work, the local economy and the district’s already congested roads.

He said: “All members of the council were concerned that increased profits would merely result in enhanced dividends to the company’s shareholders and not be used for the proposed new ferry.

“Members were also in agreement that the proposed increases would have a detrimental impact on local residents and businesses who rely on the ferry.

“The only alternative route to the ferry is a 20 mile round trip on a road that passes through several villages that are already congested at peak times, and particularly in the summer months.”

He added: “The additional road traffic will contribute to increased pollution, and would contradict the government’s policy of improving air quality.”

Purbeck District Council, together with Swanage Town Council, Corfe Castle Parish Council, Studland Parish Council, Wareham St Martin Parish Council, and Worth Matravers Parish Council have instructed a barrister to present their case at the hearing.

However, the ferry company says the price rise is necessary to meet increased running costs.

Eventually the ferry will need to be replaced, which will cost a significant sum.

The public inquiry will take place at 10am on Tuesday, September 25, and Wednesday, September 26, at Studland Village Hall.