WORK on a controversial cut-price pub in one of Hampshire’s most exclusive towns gets under way next month.

The J D Wetherspoon chain is preparing to turn a former home furnishings store in Lymington into The Six Bells, which is expected to create about 40 jobs.

Work is due to begin on September 10 and will take three months, which means the watering hole will open in time for Christmas.

Planning permission for the two-storey development was granted almost a year ago after a long and bitter battle that split the community.

Wetherspoon’s first application to convert the Palfrey & Kemp store in St Thomas’s Street sparked 200 letters of protest and a 240-name petition.

District councillors rejected the proposal after objectors claimed that rowdy customers would upset pensioners living in nearby Monmouth House and mourners attending funerals at St Thomas’s Church.

Protesters sitting in the public gallery cheered and applauded the authority’s decision to refuse the plans.

But Lymington was dubbed “the snootiest town in Britain” immediately after the vote, which followed widespread opposition to the possibility of an Argos store opening in the community. In May last year Wetherspoons submitted a new application to convert the Palfrey & Kemp shop.

Despite the addition of a wildlife garden the second scheme sparked 970 letters of objection – one of the biggest protests the town had ever seen.

But the council also received a 1,000-name petition and 110 letters supporting the proposal, which was approved after a long and heated debate.

No one was more pleased than Jacqui Head, whose family raised the petition.

Speaking at the time she said: “Wetherspoons is going to be very good for Lymington, which is currently a dying town.

“It will also be very good for families because, unlike many other places, they will be able to afford to go there.”