THE appearance of scaffolding on the front of the former Three Cups Hotel in Lyme Regis has prompted many to ask whether the owners, Palmer’s Brewery, of Bridport, are about to commence the long awaited redevelopment of the town centre eyesore.
But those who are anxious to see the Broad Street premises, closed for three decades, returned to its former glory in the immediate future are likely to be disappointed.
A spokesman for Palmer’s has told LymeOnline that the scaffolding had gone up on the Grade II Listed Building to carry out repairs and improve the appearance of the exterior of the historic building, which dates back to 1807, and there is no indication when a start will be made on the main development.
In 2015 West Dorset District Council granted planning permission for a development scheme said at the time to be costing £5 million.
The plan envisaged retention of the front of the building but partial demolition of the rear. The ground floor is likely to become retail outlets with two luxury flats above.
The scheme also includes town houses, shops, a restaurant with panoramic views over Lyme Bay with 12 chalet-type letting accommodation units and an underground car park.
At the time, John Palmer, chairman of JC & RH Palmer Ltd, said: “This decision is good news for the Three Cups, Lyme Regis and the local economy as a whole.
“We will be investing £5million in restoring a landmark building and helping to revitalise Broad Street. Over the last few years, we have worked closely with townspeople and English Heritage to create a top-quality regeneration scheme that will bring great benefits to the area.
“A considerable amount of detailed work now needs to be done to ensure that the project moves forward smoothly and we will be starting this as soon as possible.”
Since making that statement the building has continued to deteriorate badly.
Nigel Jones, Palmer’s property consultant, told LymeOnline that the scaffolding had been erected because Palmer’s recognised the impact the building had on Broad Street and repairs to the stonework and painting were necessary.
Having been granted planning permission, work has to commence within three years and Mr Jones said the project had started, meeting that condition, with some stabilisation being carried out to a significant wall at the rear of the property.
He said the contractor which carried out this work was likely to be the contractor for the main development and they were now trying to come up a “simplified” scheme to access the groundworks which made up 40 per cent of the complete project.
He commented: “We cannot give a date when the main work will start because we are waiting for the engineers to come up with a way of doing the groundworks.”
The Three Cups has associations with many famous literary and historical figures. It is believed that author Jane Austen stayed in Hiscott’s Boarding house on the same site in 1804.
The hotel has played host to many famous and influential people including Alfred Lord Tennyson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton and J. R. R. Tolkien, who spent several holidays there.
In 1944, General Eisenhower delivered an important briefing to senior officers in the first floor lounge prior to D-Day.
The hotel was used in the making of the film ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ in 1981, featuring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep.
A Save The Three Cups group was formed to campaign for the building to be re-opened as an hotel but Palmer’s produced a consultant’s report saying this was not financially viable.