Gaming centre will be ‘catastrophic’ for Havant town centre and vulnerable church users

The Reve Canon Tom Kennar of St Faiths Church, Havant
The Reve Canon Tom Kennar of St Faiths Church, Havant

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PLANS to turn a prominent town centre pub into an adult gaming centre with slot machines have met with strong opposition from the church.

The White Hart pub, on the corner of North Street and East Street in Havant Town Centre, has been empty for more than a year.

A number of different plans have been forward – including turning it into a restaurant and bingo hall.

Permission for the bingo hall was granted in 2013.

The latest application is by Golden Slots (Southern) Ltd.

The Rev Canon Tom Kennar, Rector of St Faith’s Church which is opposite the pub, has written to Havant Borough Council objecting to the plans, ahead of Tuesday’s licensing hearing.

In the letter Mr Kennar said he believes the gaming centre will lead to vulnerable people being exploited through gambling.

‘The local community includes a Gamblers Anonymous group which meets at The Pallant, no more than 100 yards from the pub.

‘I believe the opening of a licensed gambling venue so close to where addicted gamblers have sought help for so many years would potentially cause great harm to vulnerable people by bringing severe temptation into their orbit.’

He said the centre would have a ‘negative impact’ on the tranquillity of the church where people in need go to seek help and could have ‘catastrophic consequences’.

And Councillor Tim Pike, who represents St Faith’s ward, said the centre would encourage children from schools nearby, who pass it on their way to school, to gamble.

And he also fears a rise in anti-social behaviour – which is already the largest crime category in the area due to the high number of pubs.

If the company is successful there will be up to 40 gaming machines open to the public between 9am and 10pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 6pm on Sundays.

Alcohol will not be served on the premises and a bingo hall will be opened in part of the building in the future.

The hearing is at 10.15am at The Plaza on Tuesday.