Plans to ensure the viable future of a historic Bridport landmark have won the backing of the community.

A survey by Bridport Area Development Trust (BADT) invited feedback on its package ofproposals for the Literary and Scientific Institute (LSi) in East Street.

Three tenants will share the building: Crowdfunder, who have been resident in the LSi for three years and who wish to expand their operations in Bridport, is the lead tenant; an established local firm of financial advisers is the second commercial tenant; the third is 3DC a mentoring and skills development organisation headed by internationally renowned human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith.

Crowdfunder and 3DC are compiling a programme of activities, events, training, mentoring and access to LSi facilities which will be submitted to leading funders and stakeholders for approval.

BADT’s online Public Engagement Survey, which ran for three weeks in May, asked five questions, with six response categories: very satisfied; satisfied; neither satisfied nor dissatisfied; dissatisfied; very dissatisfied; not applicable. For all the questions, those respondents who were very satisfied or satisfied, heavily outweighed the dissatisfied responses.

  • How satisfied are you that the proposal meets the needs of Bridport as laid out in the LSi’s aims?
    % 28.57, 20.00, 21.43, 17.14, 11.43, 1.43
  • How satisfied are you with the proposal’s offer for community and public use? % 22.86, 27.14, 18.57, 20.00, 11.43, 0.00
  • How satisfied are you that the proposal creates unique and inspirational place for enterprise and giving young people new opportunities? % 22.86, 25.71, 22.86, 17.14, 8.57, 2.86
  • How satisfied are you that the proposal creates the right balance of financial stability and benefit to the town? % 24.29, 31.34, 15.71, 17.14, 10.00, 1.43
  • How interested are you in receiving regular updates about the work and activities of the LSi? % 22.86, 30.00, 32.86, 8.57, 5.71, 0.00

A BADT spokesperson said: “Free-text comments also offered a range of views with some looking for clarification or more information; some also offered advice.

“These comments are a rich source of information which will help the LSi tenants shape a plan to grow community engagement and understanding of what is happening in the building and what it delivers for young people and the wider community.

“The survey was sent out to the full LSi events attendees, work hub users and hirers mailing lists; BADT members; and was available through Bridport Tourist Information Centre and the LSi website.”

Overall public satisfaction with the LSi plans is shared by funders and stakeholders at national, county and local levels. In line with Historic England’s suggestions, public access will total 28 days a year, including access during Dorset Architectural Heritage Week, six annual events and two days’ free use of the community space for Bridport Town Council.

The BADT spokesperson said: “The town council is very supportive and has voted the LSi a Service Level Agreement (SLA) of £5,000 a year for three years, which is a welcome endorsement of the Trust’s plans to ensure the building’s future as a resource for the community.”

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: “The council is very supportive of BADT in this task, and predecessor councils have actively supported the restoration of the LSi to play a significant role for the Bridport community. The timing of the Coronavirus pandemic was not good for anyone and particularly so for the LSi in its born-again infancy. However, it is reassuring to see that lessons have been learned quickly and the proposals for the way forward seek to increase resilience and establish a more solid financial model upon which to play a leading role in the recovery and reshaping of Bridport.

“The council commends BADT for taking up the offer of a mentor through the Dorset Business Mentoring service, and believes this has worked for the benefit of all concerned.”

A spokesperson for Historic England’s South West Regions said: “BADT has done due diligence as landlord of the building and followed a very thorough and fair selection process. We agree that the occupancy proposal looks to be sustainable and robust and will put interesting and exciting tenants in place to take the Bridport Literary and Scientific Institute into the future.

“We are pleased to see that the lease covers requirements of the tenants to allow public access through events, tours (including Dorset Architectural Heritage week) and meetings.”

A representative of the Architectural Heritage Fund, South West and South East, said: “We are very pleased to see that a viable proposal has been identified for the building, which will allow public access to the building, support a wide range of uses and widen community engagement through activities and events.

“The proposal and business plan outline a positive mix of tenants and an exciting opportunity for the building to become a hub for social enterprise and training, as well as generating a sustainable income to secure the building for the long term. We can confirm that AHF is broadly supportive of this proposal.”

The BADT spokesman said: “The LSi appraisal was carried out with the guidance of the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) and in accordance with this major funder’s strict requirements on financial viability and sustainability, the benefits the LSi offers to the community and the preservation of the Grade II* listed building’s architectural integrity. The NLHF is satisfied that the bid feasibility studies, which were independently supervised, were thorough, fair and conducted with due diligence.”