A HISTORIC Hampshire pub has been shut and boarded up after the landlord called time and announced he was leaving.

Regulars at the Bitterne Park Hotel were called in for a farewell party by landlord Ian Houston as he revealed he was closing for good.

It’s the latest in a number of pubs in the area to close its doors, with the Castle Pub in Midanbury becoming a Tesco Express, while the Bittern Pub is set to become a McDonalds despite a campaign to save it.

However, owners Enterprise Inns have insisted the Cobden Road site will remain as a pub and say they are now looking for someone new to run it.

But that’s not stopped residents and local traders fearing it could be the death knell for another community landmark, following the loss of a chemist and post office in recent years.

Some shop owners told the Daily Echo they fear the site could become a fast food restaurant, which would finish off small cafes that have opened in the area.

Graham Cotton, of Cottons Bakery, had been drinking at the pub for more than 40 years.

He said: “I have been going there since 1968. It was the last centre of the community. I used to use it all the time.”

He added: “I would like to see someone step in and take it over, but I fear that won’t happen.”

Nick Nicolaou, manager of Andy’s Fish and Chips, wasn’t surprised by the sudden closure.

He said: “It’s sad, everything seems to have gone, the post office closed, as did the chemists. The community here is disappearing.”

According to the Bitterne Local History society, the pub dates back to the end of the 19th century.

Conservative councillor for Bitterne Park Ward Peter Bailey said: “Ian has done a terrific job in very difficult circumstances.

“There is a big market for a pub in Bitterne Park and it would be a loss to the community if it was closed for good, but I expect it to re-open.”

A statement from Enterprise Inns, who own the pub, said: “We can confirm that the Bitterne Park Hotel closed following the publican’s decision to cease trading.

“However our aim is for the pub to resume trading at the earliest opportunity and we are actively recruiting for a new publican.”

The closure comes as civic chiefs in Southampton suffered a setback in their bid to protect city pubs, which would have made it harder to convert pubs into shops and takeaways.

Leader of Southampton City Council, Simon Letts, said: “I fully support Enterprise Inns seeking a new tenant to take the pub on. Let’s hope we can trust them on this.”

Graeme Hilton, spokesman for the Campaign for Real Ale in Hampshire (CAMRA), said: “It is always sad to see a pub close, especially when they could be turned into convenience stores almost overnight.

“The closure of the Bitterne Park Hotel is a sad loss for the Bitterne Park community.”