GRAFFITI scrawled over the windows of a historic pub sent a stern message of what a town thought of a council decision.
People woke up to find The White Hart Pub in the centre of Havant at the Roman crossroads, to be covered in the word ‘No’.
It had been painted in large white letters on the windows of the listed building in both North Street and East Street.
It follows a decision the day before by Havant Borough Council to grant a gambling licence to Golden Slots Ltd to install 40 slot machines in the 127-year-old former inn.
By 11am yesterday, the paint had been removed before The News was able to take a picture of it.
But Tim Dawes, a trustee of Havant Community Homeless Trust, who objected to the plans at the licensing meeting, said the message was clear.
‘I think it got the point across,’ said Mr Dawes, who did not know the culprit. ‘A lot of people in the town saw it.’
Mr Dawes, a local business owner, said many people are spitting feathers about the decision.
As well as Mr Dawes, St Faith’s Conservative councillor Tim Pike, the Rev Canon Tom Kennar, rector of St Faith’s Church, and a member of Havant’s Gamblers’ Anonymous Group spoke out against the plans.
They argued that vulnerable people – including many people who are homeless in the town – would be harmed by a gambling centre in such a prominent location.
Mr Dawes, who said he is considering leaving Havant altogether because of the decision, told The News: ‘The question is why they did not care about the vulnerable people when we demonstrated quite clearly that any reasonable person would say there was a reasonable expectation at that location that vulnerable people are going to be harmed?’
He added: ‘I’m thinking we should give up, if we can’t win a case like this with a Tory councillor and somebody like Canon Kennar.’
Lesley Petrie, a long-standing business owner in Havant, said: ‘Everyone I’ve spoken to has said “why on earth do we need that?”. I think it’s a bad decision.’
Councillor David Smith, chairman of licensing committee, said: ‘We have carefully considered and are very mindful of vulnerable people but it was felt that the presence of a gambling centre at this location would pose no greater a threat than any other site or that is currently operational in the shape of betting offices or public houses with slot machines.
‘The sub-committee felt that this site was no different to other sites that could be opened in vacant retail areas in the borough.
‘One objector did state that he would have raised no objection if the application was for any other site in the town centre.’
A spokeswoman added that no statutory consultee – such as the police – had objected to the bid.