THE reason why one of the area’s most popular pubs closed suddenly has been revealed – it is to become a Tesco Express.
There was shock and sadness when The Green Dragon in Lovedean Lane, Waterlooville, shut in December.
Landlady Kathy Birmingham thought she was on the point of taking over a new lease when Enterprise Inns told her she had two weeks to get out of the business, which had also been her home for three years.
Despite telling her it would continue as a pub, builders are now renovating it ready to open as a convenience store in the spring.
Under law a planning application is not needed to change the use of a building from a pub to a shop.
This is despite Havant Borough Council taking a strong line against pubs being sold on as other businesses and development.
Mrs Birmingham, 55, said: ‘I couldn’t quite believe it when I found out what was going on.
‘Just a month before they told me to get out I saw a surveyor outside and asked Enterprise what he was up to but they said they didn’t know. Now it’s all become clear.
‘Instead they let me carry on believing I would be taking over the lease, and encouraged me to put together a business plan and go on an expensive British Innkeepers course.
‘I spent about £1,000 getting ready to take over.
‘If they wanted the building back the least they could have done is let me keep it until Christmas.
‘But instead they led me on and I felt guilty for my customers that I had to leave.
‘The Green Dragon was a popular pub and I’ve seen customers since who said they don’t go out any more because there are no other pubs within walking distance.
‘What they’ve done is disgusting.’
Enterprise Inns did not respond to requests for a comment on Mrs Birmingham’s claims.
So far this financial year the debt-laden firm has sold off 63 pubs, cutting its borrowing from £446m to £420m.
It is looking to raise another £150m from unwanted properties.
Councillor Gerald Shimbart, who represents Hart Plain ward, said he was saddened by the move but said the council’s hands are tied.
‘I do think it’s a shame and I feel very sorry for the landlady who had to leave her home.’
He added: ‘We have around 400 properties being built in the area and it’s a great loss of a community asset.’
Simon Petar, regional corporate affairs manager for Tesco, said: ‘We have written to councillors and residents as part of our wider consultation with the local community and look forward to speaking with them further.’