THEY have won the first battle in their bid to save a historic Hampshire pub.

The Bittern pub could be saved after fast-food chain McDonald’s had a planning application refused to transform the popular watering hole into a new restaurant.

It comes after regulars and community figures rallied together to try and save the pub from closure.

Plans to turn the Thornhill Park Road pub into a drivethrough restaurant were turned down by planning officers at Southampton City Council before they were presented at a committee meeting.

The proposals, which would see the site redeveloped into a two-storey restaurant, were refused on three grounds.

Officers refused the plans on the basis that demolishing The Bittern would result in the loss of the building, which was registered as an asset of community value – as reported by the Daily Echo.

The plans would also affect highway safety and fail to promote sustainable travel along Thornhill Park Road.

Officers also pushed away the initial application due to McDonald’s failure regarding a Section 106 agreement.

Southampton Itchen MP John Denham welcomed the refusal. He said: “It’s certainly good news.

“In a sense for it to be rejected by officers before the committee suggests there may have been substantial reasons for it.

“You cannot stop somebody putting in a revised application but we will have to see what happens. We know they started discussions with the city council about planning back in the summer.

“We know a sale will go through if they get permission but we would hope to reopen the whole process and gain the opportunity for the community to put together a commercial bid to buy the pub.

“We have learned not to claim we have won but try to make progress each time.”

Glen McInnes, manager of the pub, said he will open discussions with the pub’s brewery over its future plans.

He said: “We are over the moon with the refusal. The sheer fact it was refused because of the building means it is beyond their control.

It is early days. We have to wait and see what happens now.

“We are overjoyed by the first part of this. It was not supposed to go to the council before February 16, so this will stand us in good stead.”

A spokesman for McDonald’s said the chain will continue to work with the council on its plans.

They said: “We are disappointed that our plans to build a new restaurant in Southampton have been refused.

“We would like to invest, create jobs and build a new restaurant in the area and will continue to work with the council on our plans.”