WELLINGTON residents have been asked to come forward with their ideas for how the former Dolphin Inn could be used as a community space.
It comes after the disused Waterloo Road pub was purchased by a local firm, who are going to use the first floor space as offices.
But the plan leaves the ground floor vacant - and the new owners are keen to put it to use for the benefit of local people.
Oliver Yield, operations manager at the firm, explained: "The upstairs of the Dolphin will be our new offices. It’s a well known pub with a mural outside that people recognise and local people want to know what’s happening to it. "So we are keen to engage with residents about what to do with the space. As much as we can we want to keep the historic nature of the building. We might change some windows from an insulation point of view but not to change the look. "We have seen the Waffle House in Axminister, which has been set up in an interesting way, with a coffee area and meeting rooms, there’s a lot of people in this area and plenty of options in terms of what the Dolphin could become."
The firm are already in talks with Wellington Town Council, and plan to launch social media polls quizzing Wellington residents on a number of questions, including how the exterior of the building should be decorated, ahead of a wider consultation. Oliver said: "We have been in talks with the town council, and are trying to work out what work we need to do to make it useable.
"We want to understand what people would like to see. It looks like a lovely property and it is interesting office space. "We are going to carry out some Facebook polls to see what people’s response is to the colour, the potential uses, and so on. "At the moment we will talk to the town council, talk to the public, and work closely with them. We want residents to be involved and we want to make sure we aren’t disrupting the locals. We want to give some value back given this building has been empty for the past few years." Oliver even suggested that the pub's bar could remain in use - if someone was able to come forward and run it.
The iconic Wellington pub closed in early 2020, after owner Anna Madams said she had struggled to keep the business afloat. Blaming industry changes and rising costs, Ms Madams was eventually forced to shut the inn. She was reported to have said at the time:
"I would love the Dolphin to stay open because it is a real community asset and the heart of some people’s social life but running it is a 100-hours a week job and I need to put my family and financial future first.”
The space has remained unused since the pub's closure, despite previous attempts to bring it back into use. A local community group lobbied the town council to designate the building an 'asset of community value.' but the bid was ultimately rejected.
But now the building is again occupied, with works to install office space upstairs in their preliminary phase. Oliver advised Wellington residents to 'keep their ear to the ground' in advance of a forthcoming consultation so they could have their say on the fate of the local landmark.