THIS WEEK IN 1978: Oliver Twist pub dispute settles

The Oliver Twist, Old Commercial Road, Portsmouth  - a stone's throw from the Charles Dickens Museum.
The Oliver Twist, Old Commercial Road, Portsmouth - a stone's throw from the Charles Dickens Museum.
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A year of bitter battles ended when developers of the Oliver Twist free house in Portsmouth shared a pint with local residents.

The new pub, built at a cost of more than £100,000, was the first free house ope-ned in the city since the war.

It was the centre of controversy since the start, when local residents complained that they had been kept in the dark about the size of the new pub.

Householders came together to form the Old Commercial Road Residents Association and set out to bring an end to the project.

They accused Southsea developers Wilston and Luckas of echoing the original Oliver Twist and asking for ‘more, and more, and more’ – first a larger building, and then for more parking spaces for customers.

But although the group twice succeeded in getting the backing of city planners, they were eventually overruled by the full Portsmouth City Council, and development of the Oliver Twist went ahead.

The Lord Mayor, Richard Sotnick, and Lady Mayoress, Ruth Sotnick, officially opened the new pub.

The mayor told guests: ‘There has been controversy over this new development but I believe local residents and the developers can get along for the benefit of the area.’

Among the 200 guests were local residents, contractors and members of the city council.