Fears expressed over bedsit plans for historic pub

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NEIGHBOURS living near an empty town centre pub say they are anxious over plans to turn it into bedsits.

The Cobden Arms, in West Street, Havant, shut down three years ago and since then has been broken into on several occasions.

The developer, Wayne Harris, has put in an application to turn it into nine bedsits with one communal kitchen.

Fifteen residents living nearby have objected to the plans, fearing if it goes ahead it will be a green light to turn it into a halfway house for people with social problems.

One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: ‘To be honest we are very fearful of what is going there.

‘Bedsits are totally out of keeping with this area. We would welcome something being done there but not that. We’re not being nimbys, this is a very important issue and no-one would want people like that living there.’

Another neighbour, who also did not want to be named, said: ‘I’m really anxious because they don’t appear to be considering the community that the properties are going into.’

The building is in a conservation area. Although the facade would be kept, back extensions would be knocked down and replaced.

The pub is just doors away from Havant MP David Willetts’ house but he did not respond to calls from The News for a comment.

The owner has satisfied the council’s commitment to keeping pubs open as he has advertised it as a going concern for longer than the statutory six months.

Planning officers have recommended councillors approve the plans and, in a report to the committee, say there are no grounds for objection on fears that trouble makers could move in.

Mr Harris’ agent and architect Martin Critchley denied his client was planning on working with a housing organisation to house people in tough social circumstances.

He said: ‘The use is a house in multiple occupancy. It’s not an institutional client, it is effectively a house share.’

He added: ‘We’re not part of social services. It’s not a hostel, which is a special planning use. They (neighbours) don’t want it but it’s the truth.’

The planning meeting is on Thursday at 5pm at The Plaza.