‘If this pub was shut down it would be an absolute tragedy...’

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DETERMINED locals have stepped up a bid to save their beloved community pub.

Regulars at The Fort Cumberland Arms, in Eastney Road, Eastney, set up a petition after plans were drawn up to turn the historic pub into a children’s day nursery.

And the call for support has been a major success because 600 people have put their names down on the document, which will be presented to Portsmouth City Council.

As previously reported, the fate of the pub, which dates back to the 1920s, will be decided at a council planning meeting.

A date has not yet been set.

Scores of residents have already voiced their anger against the plans, which were submitted last month, on the council’s website.

Customer Tim House, 47, who lives opposite the pub in Minstead Road, decided to take things one step further by sending out copies of a petition to neighbours and local businesses.

He said: ‘The Fort Cumberland Arms is a thriving local pub – and it’s the only one left on Eastney Road. It’s an important meeting place for families and older people.

‘It’s got a great beer garden which other pubs in the area don’t have.

‘It would be an absolute travesty if the pub was shut down.

‘Though the residents can’t afford to come up with the £300,000 freehold price we would willingly spruce the place up if Punch Taverns decided to keep the lease going.

‘I love that pub. It’s been my local for many years.’

This isn’t the first time locals have had to step in to save the pub from closure.

In January owners Punch Taverns planned to close the pub because previous tenants had left the place in a mess. But no action was taken after residents put pressure on the brewery.

Mr House said: ‘If we could save it then, we can do it again.

‘We just need as much support as possible.’

The pub is still open and is under the ownership of Punch Taverns. Christina Dolling, 53, who runs the pub with her partner Dave, 53, said it would be a shame to leave.

She said: ‘I can’t believe it might be turned into a nursery. There are already loads of them in Portsmouth, why do we need another one?

‘This is a main road. I wouldn’t take my children here.’

Tomorrow, residents and Lib Dem councillor Will Purvis – who wants to see the council do more to protect local pubs – will meet at the pub to discuss the plans. The meeting starts at 7.30pm.

People have until September 15 to submit their views on the plans at portsmouth.gov.uk/living/3533.