🏴 Weymouth is a seaside town in Dorset, on the English Channel coast of England. Situated on a sheltered bay at the mouth of the River Wey, 11 km (7 mi) south of the county town of Dorchester, Weymouth is the third largest settlement in Dorset after Bournemouth and Poole.
The history of the town stretches back to the 12th century and includes roles in the spread of the Black Death, the settlement of the Americas and the development of Georgian architecture. It was a major departure point for the Normandy Landings during World War II. Prior to local government reorganisation in April 2019, Weymouth formed a borough with the neighbouring Isle of Portland. Since then the area has been governed by Dorset Council. Weymouth, Portland and the Purbeck district are in the South Dorset parliamentary constituency, which elects one Member of Parliament: as of 2021, the Conservative Richard Drax.
A seaside resort, Weymouth and its economy depend on tourism. Visitors are attracted by its harbour and position, halfway along the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, important for its geology and landforms. Once a port for cross-channel ferries, Weymouth Harbour is now home to a commercial fishing fleet, pleasure boats and private yachts, while nearby Portland Harbour is the location of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, where the sailing events of the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games were held.
Economy Tourism is important to the local economy, employing 17% of the local workforce. In 2019, over two million day trips and 469,600 longer stays, brought £209,560,000 of visitors money into the Weymouth and Portland area. Weymouth's coast and beaches, lakes, museums, aquarium, and two shopping centres are the main attractions for visitors. The visitor accommodation consists of hotels on the seafront, guest houses around the town centre, and caravan and camping sites just out of town, including three sites owned by Haven and British Holidays: Littlesea, Seaview and Weymouth Bay.
In 2019 there were 2,160 business units in the Weymouth and Portland area, employing 18,000 local residents. The largest sector was Wholesale, Retail and Repair at 17.66% of all local businesses. Construction and Accommodation and food services were the next two largest sectors with a 13.66% share each. Most businesses, 83.1%, had less than nine employees while only 0.5% were large, employing over 250 staff. Two of the area's largest employers are the aerospace parts manufacturer, FGP systems, and the retail clothing firm, New Look.
Weymouth Harbour is long and narrow, and formed the estuary of the River Wey until the building of a dam in 1872, which separated the harbour's backwaters from Radipole Lake. For centuries the harbour was a passenger terminal and trade and cargo port: goods handled included wool and spices, and in the 20th century, fertiliser and cars. Cross-Channel ferry services ceased in 2015 but the harbour is still a working port with docks, unloading areas and a fishing fleet, which in 2004 had 82 boats, catching the largest mass of fish in England and the third largest in the United Kingdom. Fishing and cargo trading employ fewer people in the area since their peak in earlier centuries, the commercial fishing fleet has been reduced to 32 vessels but, together with the charter boats, was still worth £4 million per annum in 2018. Local boats offer fishing and diving trips, pleasure cruises along the Jurassic Coast, and thrill-rides to the Isle of Portland.
The main shopping centre in the area is in Melcombe Regis, consisting of two pedestrianised streets (St. Thomas's and St. Mary's Street), shops along the esplanade, and a new precinct stretching from St. Thomas's Street to the harbourside, built in the 1990s. There are shops and restaurants in the pedestrianised Hope Square and Brewers Quay, which are linked to the town centre by town bridge and a small passenger ferry service across the harbour. In 2005 the town centre had 292 shops and 37,500 square metres (404,000 sq ft) of floorspace, and there was 0.4 square km (100 acres) of industrial estate in the area. Weymouth, Portland and Chickerell have been a Fairtrade Zone since 2007 and in May 2013 local businesses voted in favour of creating the Weymouth Business Improvement District (BID). Like other BIDs located around the UK, it is a business-led initiative supported by Government legislation that enables the local businesses to raise funding to improve the trading environment.
The town has undergone considerable regeneration, much of it in anticipation of 2012 Summer Olympics. Work began in 2007 on improvements to the esplanade: a public square was constructed around the restored statue of King George III, the Art Deco, a tourist information centre and café was built (2020), along with repairs and painting to existing Victorian-style shelters and new cafe seasonal kiosks, a beach rescue centre (2020), and a sand art pavilion for the sculptures of Mark Anderson. Other alterations to the promenade were made, particularly around key areas such as the Jubilee Clock and the pier bandstand, with the introduction of new cafes and bars, improved lighting and seating areas with planting, fountains and trees.
Figures released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, in 2014 and 2019, suggested that the ex-borough of Weymouth and Portland was in the top 10% of the most deprived districts in the UK. Central Weymouth and the Littlemoor estate were the town's worst areas. Although unemployment is relatively low, at just over 4%, much of the work is seasonal, part time, and low paid.
A Government initiative to help reinvigorate seaside economies was announced in 2015 and in 2019, Weymouth was awarded £3.79 million from the Coastal Communities Fund. The money will help with refurbishment of the area around the town's quay; first proposed in 2006, the plans were abandoned in favour of other works prior to the 2012 Olympics. In addition to beautification and better access, aimed at attracting visitors, there will be improved facilities for fishermen, including secure compounds for equipment and increased cold storage for catches.
Weymouth has a population of over 65,167 people. Weymouth also forms one of the centres of the wider Dorset county which has a population of over 772,268 people. It is estimated there are around 2,160 businesses in Weymouth. Weymouth is situated 11 km south of Dorchester.
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