Jeremy Irons calls for owners of abandoned buildings to be prosecuted Photo: GETTY
The actor has given his backing to a campaign group which seeks to protect old pubs and hotels in west Dorset.
One of the properties is the long derelict Three Cups Hotel, a Grade II-listed Georgian building in Lyme Regis, Dorset, which featured in the film The French Lieutenant's Woman. The film has a shot of Irons looking out of the first floor bow window of the hotel.
In a message to the campaign group, Irons said: "It seems to me that owners leaving a building abandoned for a long period of time, when that building is part of the local community, should be prosecuted for vandalism to our built heritage.
"I cannot believe that the local authorities do not have the power of compulsory purchase in such a case and I hope they may be prompted into using such power on behalf of the people of Lyme Regis and all of us who value our irreplaceable architectural heritage."
JRR Tolkein stayed at the Three Cups on several occasions and he wrote part of TheLord of the Rings in the hotel. GK Chesterton was also a guest at the hotel which has been unoccupied for nearly 20 years.
John Grantham, the leader of the campaign group, Community Alert on Pubs, said he approached Irons for support and was surprised to receive a reply.
Mr Grantham said the hotel was suffering from general decay.
He said: "Clearly many pubs these days need to close because of low customer demand in places, but where you have an iconic hotel in the centre of a town with great heritage they should surely be very well preserved and used if possible.
"One suggestion from the Lyme Regis Development Trust is that the Three Cups could become a Jurassic study centre, attracting visitors from all over the country and the world. It is currently a blot on the town and there is a substantial loss of income to the town from the building being unused."
The Three Cups is owned by the brewers JC and RH Palmer who said they had been unable to do anything with the building until the area behind it had been stabilized, following some land slippage.
This had now been done as part of the Lyme Regis coastal protection scheme.
Palmers said it was unable to proceed further, however, in the current economic climate.
Daryl Turner, who represents Lyme Regis on West Dorset district council, said: “I have raised the question of compulsory purchase (of the hotel) on several occasions. But there is a limited budget for this type of action.”