A DECISION to allow a historic pub to be turned into a bingo hall has been sharply criticised by Havant’s Civic Society.
Bill Woods, chairman of the society, hit out at Havant Borough Council’s decision to allow the 124-year-old White Hart Pub in East Street to be turned into an adult gaming centre.
He told The News: ‘The White Hart, which was building up a successful live music venue with a varied menu including folk, rock and ska, will close following last month’s planning decision to approve a change of use to a bingo hall and adult gaming centre.
‘It’s difficult to imagine such a thing happening in Emsworth or Hayling, especially in the teeth of such strenuous opposition from the local community, Havant Civic Society, and the heartfelt pleas of the existing landlord.’
Mr Woods said The White Hart going would mean the loss of four successful businesses in the town centre, with three start-up shops moving out of North Street because of not being to find somewhere bigger.
Mr Woods added: ‘It is regrettable that elected members don’t support businessmen and women more, putting constructive policies in place to encourage and develop these kinds of local enterprises.
‘It seems that councillors are focused on waiting for big developers to come in to transform the town and in the meantime small businesses are moving elsewhere.’
But St Faith’s councillor David Guest strongly defended the council, arguing there were ‘emotional misconceptions’ about what councillors can do.
He said: ‘How owners may choose to use their premises is a matter for them, as long as they comply with the permitted user class order under planning legislation. The owner of the White Hart has chosen not to continue using the premises as a public house.
‘This is a private commercial decision.’
He said the message is always that Havant is ‘open for business’.
He added: ‘To say that elected members do not support business is disingenuous. Members take a great deal of trouble to give their time to get elected and do whatever they can to benefit the borough.’