IT has been at the heart of the local community for more than 50 years.

But planning chiefs have called time on a Hampshire pub after approving proposals to convert the large two-storey building into a convenience store.

The Hampshire Yeoman in Blackfield will close almost immediately with the loss of three jobs and reopen next spring as a Sainsbury’s Local.

New Forest District Council’s decision to back the scheme coincided with yesterday’s announcement that Sainsbury’s saw its profits rise by four per cent to £13.36 billion in the six months to September 29.

The UK’s third largest supermarket group has now enjoyed 31 consecutive quarters of underlying sales growth.

The Hampshire Yeoman scheme had split the village, despite the promise of 25 fulltime and part-time jobs.

Supporters claimed that the pub was an eyesore and a noise nuisance. But critics said that the new store would generate extra traffic, endangering the safety of children walking to and from Blackfield Primary School.

The application was approved by the district council’s planning committee – despite a last-ditch attempt to save the popular watering hole.

Hampshire Yeoman supporter Lynne Burch said: “It’s the only pub in the village and is a really good place to socialise, relax and meet friends. If it goes it will have more impact on the area than you can imagine.”

Landlord Richard Clark cited the road safety concerns and added: “When kids get hurt, I’ll be the first to say ‘I told you so’.”

But Tom Trenchard, representing Sainsbury’s, said a “high proportion”

of customers would walk to the store.

The committee also heard from Hampshire county councillor Alexis McEvoy, who said that the scheme would jeopardise the survival of small shops in the village.

She added: “The loss of the Hampshire Yeoman, and possibly neighbouring businesses, would be against the public interest.”

But committee members stressed that Sainsbury’s did not need planning permission to turn the bar into a shop.

It only required consent to alter the building and there were no valid reasons for rejecting the proposals, it was claimed.

The company’s application to build a single-storey rear extension and install a new front entrance was approved by 12 votes to three.