LYME Regis has been urged to act now to influence the future of the Three Cups as the latest development plans are revealed.

Palmers Brewery is proposing to demolish the former hotel’s rear wing, convert the front section into shops and flats, and build a restaurant and letting rooms at the back.

The brewery’s property agent Nigel Jones, of Chesterton Humberts, gave town councillors an update on the project at a meeting on Wednesday.

Mr Jones said the proposed scheme is ‘just about viable’ and emphasised that it would not be viable as a hotel.

But councillors stressed that is ‘not a done deal’ and called on residents to ‘lobby’ their opinions on the ‘iconic’ building.

Coun Mark Gage said: “For us it’s such an important site, not just as a building but a lot of people may not realise that the size of the site at the rear of the hotel is one of the largest pieces of land in the town, so it’s of great significance.

“People should seize this opportunity if they want to influence what the owners wish to do with the building.”

Mr Jones said they have been working for the last 18 months with English Heritage and West Dorset District Council planners carrying out survey work.

He said: “This is a complicated building, it’s an important building and a site that we have got to get absolutely right. The last thing the brewery wants to do is present eventually a scheme which we don’t think will meet with the public’s approval.”

Campaigners from the Save the Three Cups as a Heritage Hotel Group have previously raised concerns about plans to demolish the rear wing, which they believe is most historically significant part of the building.

Mr Jones said: “English Heritage has agreed that the rear wing in reality is impossible to convert and our plan to take the rear wing down is a sensible thing to do.”

Mr Jones said Palmers’ proposals for the Broad Street building have not changed otherwise.

The front section will be retained with retail space on the ground floor and private flats on the upper floors.

A restaurant will be built at the back with around 10 letting rooms attached, and the restaurant operator will manage the rooms.

“We have come up with a scheme that is just about viable,” said Mr Jones.

Coun Rikey Austin, who is opposed to the development, said the town relies on its visitor economy and people appreciate the historical significance of the building.

“There’s a real financial implication on everybody if we lose that attraction,” she said.

Coun Sally Holman said: “I don’t want to see the whole historical significance of the building disappear.”

Mr Jones said they are hoping to hold a second public consultation in the spring and submit a planning application in the summer.

He added that there is a 50 to 60 per cent chance of building work starting in 2014.