Community Alert on Pubs letter to WDDC
To: Mr D Clarke, Chief Executive, WDDC.
Copies to: Dr D Evans, Councillor R Gould, WDDC Councillors.
Date: 1st February 2010
Dear Mr Clarke,
THREE CUPS HOTEL, LYME REGIS & OLD SWAN, TOLLER PORCORUM
We believe WDDC has demonstrated serious neglect in duty of care to two West Dorset establishments.
1) THREE CUPS HOTEL, LYME REGIS: Alarmingly, the central, shattering finding of TRI Consultancy’s report reads: “Over the last 20 years the exterior and particularly the interior of the building have become severely dilapidated”. (It’s ‘official’ – this iconic, Grade II-listed building under WDDC authority is … “severely dilapidated”.)
Restoration/ refurbishment cost to open would depend partly on the style, quality, rooms etc a particular (new) owner envisages - but no-one doubts it’ll be a 7-figure £ sum. Yet, TRI - as expected - confirms that, once opened, an additional 4 star boutique hotel in Lyme IS viable.
If indeed “the exterior and particularly the interior are severely dilapidated” how does this tally with Dr Evans’ WDDC letter, May 21st 2009, outlining just 3 areas for Palmers’ attention: kitchen skylight/flashings; ivy; and water ingress above rear projecting bay? He concludes “Once this work is complete the Council is content that the listed building issues at this property will have been addressed for the present time,” with the 3 repairs ‘due for completion’ by June 7th. But ITV’s film broadcast of 25th January 2010 on dilapidation, shows inexplicably they’ve STILL not been undertaken by Palmers. (English Heritage knows the situation.)
Equally confusingly, Nigel Jones’, of Chesterton Humberts, Palmers property agent, said in a local paper, April: “The building has not deteriorated – remarkably, having been empty for 20 years, it is in such good condition”. (100 photos of inside, and TRI organisation’s report, seem to suggest otherwise. And most outside guttering, piping and fire-escape stairs have collapsed, perished or are non-functional - indeed two years ago a 30ft run of cast-iron guttering crashed 70ft onto the pavement below.)
From this, ONE burning issue emerges – how speedily WDDC now halts further dilapidation/ collapse. If restoration will cost £2-£4 millions, a new buyer must be searched for immediately, found fast, and start salvage work soon – perhaps buying the hotel for £1 (because of the £ millions investment required … and after WDDC has compulsory purchased at say £1). WDDC should immediately announce, and start implementing, its Compulsory Purchase, publicising strongly “Buyer wanted!” Prospective buyers must obtain early viewings to clarify/ confirm interest; compulsory purchase would follow, with sell-on at perhaps £1 to new buyer, on a ‘back-to-back’ arrangement, with WDDC offering grants/loans. Every day WDDC hesitates, increases dilapidation, raises cost.
By acting NOW, WDDC may avoid surely ignominious disrepute in local, national and international media for failing in its duty. Internet research shows WDDC’s inaction makes it ‘the most backward’ council in UK on solving hotel/pub ‘eyesores’– meanwhile Lyme’s economy has lost some £10-20 millions from the 20-year shut.
WDDC cannot duck responsibility by being diverted by talk of glossy new planning applications, flashy restaurant, sea-views for luxury flats with occasional affordable ones, civic amenities, or opening-up access to Langmoor Gardens, …. Lyme simply and urgently needs more hotel BEDS.
Very specifically, Mr Clarke, given the powers WDDC possesses under 1990 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act (particularly sections 54-55; and 47-52 including Compulsory Purchase) can you please explain in detail just how WDDC has allowed this building to degenerate into its current parlous, last-chance-saloon “severely dilapidated” state - and confirm immediate actions?
I will phone you this week to see if you and/or Dr Evans and/or Cllr Gould, (having all sadly declined invitations to attend two public meetings with the residents of Lyme during 2009), will now accept an invitation to attend there during February, given alarming TRI Consultancy’s findings. We can agree time/ date/ chairman.
2) OLD SWAN, TOLLER PORCORUM: WDDC still refuses to take the necessary compulsory purchase action. The pub’s dilapidation 11 years after being shut by Palmers, (mostly with rain pouring through an open part of the roof above the bar), has triggered serious physical rotting… and an estimated 6-figure £ loss to the local economy. The owners refuse to re-open or offer it for sale.
Palmers/ WDDC have prevaricated (11 full years), and eventual, stuttering discussions have stalled at 5 years free rent (concession would be covered anyway by purchases of Palmers beers). Extraordinarily, the massive £300,000 necessary to restore the pub Palmers has left to rot would have to be paid – say Palmers - by the residents! (…actually £1,000 for every man, woman and child in Toller!)
3) ACTIONS: We look forward to hearing in due course news of your acceptance of visiting Lyme to debate openly with Lyme residents, finding buyers and compulsory purchase.
We have ‘Questions’ booked at WDDC Council meeting, 23rd February… actually the last before the Election where you can fully inform the whole community on incisive, detailed action.
Community Alert on Pubs/Hotels.