PUB campaigners have been left ‘seething with anger’ after the district council refused to sanction the compulsory purchase of the dilapidated Three Cups Hotel.

Around 150 people attended a public meeting on Friday to put pressure on Palmers Brewery to re-open the Lyme Regis hotel, which has been empty for more than two decades.

John Grantham, leader of the Community Alert on Pubs, said it was a ‘monumental evening’. He said: “Everyone involved has such a feeling of exhilaration now as we feel we have broken through to the point where people’s feelings have been expressed finally.”

The lobbyists are now putting pressure on West Dorset District Council to exercise its powers to compulsory purchase the Broad Street hotel, after a vote on the night showed unanimous support for the move.

But West Dorset District Council leader Robert Gould said he was against it because he preferred to ‘go on talking’ with the owner, and also to take any such action would be to cause a precedent.

Coun Gould said: “We are keen to see these facilities brought back into the best practical use, although that use might be different from the past. We are looking at new and innovative ways of achieving that.”

The council’s director of planning and environment David Evans added: “The council will only consider serving a compulsory purchase order as a last resort if all other reasonable options have failed. To serve a compulsory purchase order at this stage would be premature and therefore would set an undesirable precedent.”

Mr Evans said the situation with the Grade-II listed Three Cups is ‘complicated’, with the large rear wing of the building badly affected by land instability.

“The major land stability work in Langmoor and Lister gardens was completed in 2007 and has arrested the ground movement at the rear of this site,” added Mr Evans.

“The owner has been advised of their responsibilities to maintain the building in a safe and weather tight condition pending a comprehensive scheme for the reuse of the front part of the building and potential redevelopment of the rear wing.”

The council’s stance angered Mr Grantham, who said: “It was obvious by the end of the evening that to say that the whole audience was seething with anger at these reactions was probably an understatement.”

Sue Farrant, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for West Dorset, is supporting the campaigners’ calls.

She said: “The district council has a duty to promote economic, social and environmental well-being in the community it serves and it is time that it did just that.”

Nigel Jones, the brewery’s commercial property agent from Humberts, represented them at the meeting in Bridport’s Electric Palace.

He said: “You are actually rather lucky to have Palmers in this area – beer sales are going up, they are not increasing beer prices, and they are not selling out to one of the multiples.”