A DECISION to turn one of Havant’s most iconic pubs into a bingo hall has caused outrage.
There was opposition to turning the 124-year-old White Hart Pub into an adult gaming centre, including a letter from Canon Peter Jones, who said the development would damage the area and was inappropriate directly opposite St Faith’s Church and the war memorial.
Heritage Property Southern applied to Havant Borough Council for a change of use, including installing around 60 electronic bingo terminals and up to 35 slot machines.
Havant Civic Society opposed the development and the council received a petition of 69 signatures.
Many controversial applications are discussed through public debate at the council’s planning committee, where councillors then vote.
But the council decided to approve the development through delegated powers without it going to committee.
Mr Jones, of St Faith’s Church, said: ‘My reaction is one of surprise. We would be interested to see how the officers have justified the decision.
‘In the course of time, we will want to interrogate the council as to why they felt that it could be accepted in the easiest way possible.’
There was anger that Havant would lose one of its last remaining live music venues.
Tim Dawes, from Havant Civic Society, said: ‘I am absolutely outraged.
‘Can you imagine what’s going to happen the next time we have a memorial service and people are playing fruit machines nearby?’
A council report states: ‘While the concerns raised are understood, it is not considered that there are any legitimate means in terms of planning legislation to object to the proposed uses on moral grounds.
‘The proposed uses are legal and are subject to separate licensing rules, they also represent appropriate town centre uses.’
There will be no change to the exterior of the building, which is being considered for listed status by English Heritage. No alcohol would be served.
Jackie Branson, one of three councillors for St Faith’s, said it was ‘touch and go’ about whether to send it to committee.
She said: ‘On planning grounds I think it was probably difficult to refuse it.’
She added: ‘It’s a difficult one. I accept what Canon Jones has to say but in the long-term it’s a change of use. It’s saving the building at the moment. ‘It is not empty and being run down.’