ONE of the most opposed town centre developments in recent years was approved last night.
Councillors gave the green light for a betting shop to open in the heart of Waterlooville, opposite the bandstand in London Road.
A planning meeting at Havant Borough Council’s offices, The Plaza, heard there had been a total of 102 objections, but that councillors’ hands were tied and there was no legitimate planning reason to refuse the proposal.
Objectors fear it will send out the wrong impression of the town centre, which has been desperately fighting to become a more vibrant place with music festivals on the weekends.
Betfred will now be able to move from its existing shop further along London Road into the corner unit.
Councillors unanimously voted for the property – which has been empty since 2012 – to be changed from retail to a betting shop.
David Crichton, representing the objectors and a Waterlooville resident for 45 years, pleaded with councillors to refuse it.
After the decision was made, Mr Crichton said: ‘This application attracted more objections that any I have seen in 50 years of following planning.’
He said ‘a lot of people would be disappointed’.
He added: ‘Putting that bandstand in the centre – that has been a focal point.
‘I think it’s going to give the wrong impression of what we are trying to do in the town centre.
‘People are going to come into the centre and see a whopping big betting shop.
‘It’s not the direction we would want to see the town going in.’
He said he realised the planning committee could not vote against the plan, but added that many people might be ‘disillusioned’ that heavily-opposed plans were being approved.
A similar situation arose in Havant when people objected to The White Hart Pub being turned into a gaming centre, but it was given the green light.
Waterlooville Cllr Paul Buckley, who sat on the committee, explained there were ‘no material planning considerations’ to refuse the betting shop.
He added: ‘It does create footfall in the town centre which is something we have been striving to do.’