BRIDPORT Area Development Trust has been given 18 months to secure a new future for the old Literary and Scientific Institute in East Street.
An estimated £2 million is needed to reverse the deterioration of the Grade II* Listed Building that has occurred since 1997, when it stopped being a public library.
Bridport Area Development Trust (BADT), supported by Bridport Museum Trust, wants to turn the LSI into a Heritage and Study Centre based on Bridport’s centuries-long industrial and cultural involvement with rope and net.
At the High Court this week, LSI leaseholders Dorset County Council argued that BADT should only be given nine months, at the end of which the council should be allowed to put the building up for sale.
But High Court Master Nicolas Bragge accepted the argument put forward by BADT volunteers Charles Wild and Crystal Johnson that 18 months was needed to make bids to funding bodies.
Bridport County Councillor Karl Wallace testified to the court that the LSI was an important Bridport building and that local people supported BADT’s ideas.
However, Dorset County Council was authorised to investigate the market for a possible sale of the building.
But – it is worth repeating – the council was told it could not place the building on the market or dispose of it.
Charles Wild, who is also a Bridport town councillor, said: “We are pleased with this outcome. This is a big challenge and the Court decision leaves an enormous amount of work to be done. But the Museum project has been gaining a lot of local support, and Crystal Johnson has put together an exceptional project proposal which includes a workable ten-year business plan.
“We feel it is right that the time should be allowed to give the proposal a chance of succeeding and bringing a much-loved and important building back into community use.
“Dorset County Council will be invited to appoint a representative to the project development group and we hope they will play a constructive role in trying to make this work.”
A spokesman for Dorset County Council said: “The High Court order has given the Bridport Area Development Trust (BADT) 18 months to develop a business plan for the future of the Bridport Scientific and Literary Institute, including proposals to meet the building’s estimated £2.2 million refurbishment costs.
“Bringing the building back into community ownership is our preferred way forward, but it is crucial that progress is made by the BADT in developing a sound business plan and we will be supporting the Trust towards that goal.”
Some quick background information: In January 2010 the High Court issued an Order that approximately six months should be allowed for BADT to establish itself as a body in which the LSI could be vested for a use in line with the charitable and educational objectives of the original trustees who founded the Institute in the 1850s.
During the course of this year, the Development Trust has become fully constituted and is now a registered Charity.
This week’s High Court hearing was held to establish whether the Trust should be given more time or whether Dorset County County should be allowed to seek a sale. The outcome was as above.
Updated with comment from Dorset County Council on September 6.