AROUND £15m of investment has been promised for Havant town centre as plans to demolish a historic pub were controversially approved last night.
Entrepreneur Shaun Adams, from Southsea, is planning to regenerate Market Parade – the area next to the railway station – with shops, apartments and restaurants.
It came as a knife-edge vote by councillors on the planning committee of Havant Borough Council paved the way for the demolition of the 163-year-old Star pub – a move that is critical for Mr Adams’ plans for the town.
As reported, the council’s conservation officer recommended councillors refuse demolition of the derelict pub, arguing it is a ‘heritage asset’ and could still be renovated.
Mr Adams, who runs Hampshire & Regional Property Group, told the committee: ‘To date we have spent over £900,000 trying to bring this together for the borough.
‘We feel our long-term aspiration will certainly create important jobs and regeneration and stimulate the evening economy.’
Mr Adams wants to bulldoze the pub and create a temporary car park.
A planning application is set to be submitted later this year or next year for a comprehensive redevelopment of the area from North Street to the precinct, which Mr Adams owns.
A second phase involving the units backing on to Havant Park may come at a later date.
Cllr Richard Brown, who sits on the committee, said: ‘We are far too quick to get rid of the old things instead of trying to incorporate the old and the new.
‘An extra 32 car parking spaces is not going to make a blind bit of difference to Havant. If someone took over that building and made it nice, it will be a real enhancement.’
But Cllr John Smith claimed the council’s conservation officer had seen Victorian building through ‘rose-tinted glasses’.
Cllr Rory Heard said: ‘Every time I go past that building, my heart sinks about a town that really should have a future and is represented by a boarded-up derelict building.’
Cllr Elaine Shimbart, committee chairwoman, said the building should be saved because it was part of the history and heritage of Havant.
The demolition was approved, with four councillors in favour, and three against.
After the meeting, Mr Adams said: ‘I’m delighted that the committee can see the wider benefits and the opportunity to bring a significant regeneration opportunity to Havant.
‘The decision here today sets us on the path to bring forward an investment of £15m for the benefit of Havant town centre.’
He added: ‘Havant needs a new heart. I hope to deliver it.’
But former Bedhampton councillor Ann Buckley, who has lived in Havant 40 years, was angry after the meeting.
She said: ‘I am appalled at this decision. It sends a message to developers simply to leave buildings empty and to deteriorate in a conservation area and as a result they will get consent to demolish.
‘Havant has lost another interesting old building.’