STUDLAND Parish Council has ruled against an alternative ticket price hike for the Sandbanks Chain Ferry, arguing the move would make the service "increasingly unaffordable" for locals.

Ferry company bosses say they need to increase fares to ensure the future of the chain ferry.

Last month the Echo reported how two alternative price regimes had been submitted to The Planning Inspectorate on the eve of an inquiry into the ferry company's proposed hikes.

One of the alternative price structures was submitted from a consortium of three councils – BCP Council, Dorset Council and Swanage Town Council. The other was introduced by the National Trust.

Now, after an extraordinary meeting of Studland Parish Council, members not only reaffirmed their objections to the ferry company's proposed increases, they also unanimously ruled against the alternative proposal put forward by the consortium of three councils.

However, council members did back the proposal from the National Trust.

A statement from the parish council said: "The grounds for the parish council’s objection to the (three council consortium's) proposal were that it would lead to fare increases of 45 per cent for car users, and a 36 per cent increase in the price of a book of ten tickets.

"The proposals also provide no solution to the long-standing issue of the ferry replacement reserve, whilst offering levels of profitability to the ferry company that far exceed their operational needs."

Parish council members argued the consortium's proposals favoured leisure and lifestyle users of the ferry over the needs of local people "for whom this should be seen as an essential service".

The parish council statement continued: "They (parish council members) recognised that the fare levels proposed by Dorset Council/ BCP Council and Swanage Town Council would make it increasingly unaffordable for local residents and employees to use the ferry.

"This would have a detrimental impact on local businesses to be able to recruit and retain staff and would force residents and those travelling to work to drive an extra 20 miles or more via Wareham, with serious consequences for the environment."

The Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company, operator of the Sandbanks chain ferry, is attempting to secure approval for raising ticket prices.

Mike Kean, managing director of the ferry company, said: "Toll increases are a necessary part of the mix in ensuring that our vital service to local businesses, residents and tourists is maintained long into the future."

The single trip ticket prices sought by the company are between a five per cent to 5.56 per cent increase on the last approved maximum tolls chargeable amounts – set back in 2015.

If approved, eventually over the next 12 years fees for foot passengers, bicycle and motorbike users heading to Studland could rise from £1 to £1.50 and for cars in both directions from £4.50 to £6.75.

However, the alternative proposal suggested by a consortium of BCP Council, Dorset Council and Swanage Town Council will effectively freeze the charges for pedestrians and cyclists until March 2032.

Under the National Trust proposal pre-bought tickets could be bought in batches of 50 for £100, equating to £2 per crossing.

The inquiry has been adjourned to the New Year to allow the suggested alternatives to be consulted on.