THE Canon of an historic church says changing a town centre pub to an amusement arcade will damage the area.
For almost 125 years the White Hart has stood at the crossroads of North, West, East and South Streets opposite Havant’s St Faith’s Church.
An application has now been submitted to Havant Borough Council to turn the pub into an amusement centre with bingo and slot machines.
The pub was bought last year by Heritage Property Southern Limited for £155,000. The company believes the change of use will enhance the vitality and viability of the town centre but this is rejected by Rev Can Peter Jones, of St Faiths.
In his objection letter to the council he said: ‘An amusement centre at a sensitive area at the cross road in the heart of Havant would lead to further degeneration rather than regeneration of the historic town centre.’
He added: ‘The position of the amusement centre opposite St Faith’s Church and a listed war memorial, all within a conservation area, is not appropriate.’
Mr Jones said the introduction of the gambling establishment could also put more pressure on policing, and it was unlikely to boost the local economy because patrons would stay inside the building rather than visiting a number of local businesses.
But, despite the pub being in a conservation area, the council’s conservation officer said the important thing is to maintain the character and appearance of the building.
And there are no conservation grounds on which to object as long as the outside is kept the same.
English Heritage is considering an application to make the pub a listed building.
Keith Oliver, acting for Heritage Property Southern, said: ‘The concerns of the vicar of St Faith’s and others to the nature of the use are noted, however the application must be considered on planning and not moral grounds.
‘The building, which is a feature of the town centre, will be retained in much like its present appearance, and will be properly licensed and managed to prevent any undue disturbance to other users of the town centre.
‘The applicant runs a number of similar establishments and is satisfied that if permitted the use can operate here without harm, complementing the vitality and viability of the town centre.’