The latest plans for the renovation of Hemel Hempstead’s LeisureWorld complex were given the go ahead despite concerns about the addition of a public house to the scheme.
Councillors said they feared the complex could revert back to being a troublesome drink-driven party venue rather than the family destination they hoped for.
The concerns come after site operators Capital and Regional revealed it has pub chain the Hungry Horse lined up to move in.
Dacorum Borough Council’s development and control committee considered three new planning applications for the site, which relate to a change of use for one of the units from a restaurant to drinking establishment, changes to the frontage of the building to allow a gym to be based downstairs and changes to the rear to accommodate a children’s soft play area.
Councillor Anthony Mackay asked planning officers: “Is there any difference between this use and Jumpin Jaks, which was essentially a bar where they put all the tables and chairs away at 11 o’clock and it became a nightclub?”
At the meeting on Thursday evening, planning officer Richard Butler said there is a difference between a pub and a nightclub, although fellow planning officer Paul Newton highlighted that it would be difficult to object to having a pub on the site when bars and nightclubs have operated there for many years previously. “I think it would be very difficult to object to having a pub-like operator there,” he said.
Councillor Colette Wyatt-Lowe said: “We do have concerns clearly because of our experience with the nightclubs. Can we make a note that it will be coming before the licensing committee and we expect them to put in suitable measures to deal with this?”
And Councillor John Whitman asked: “Is it going to be like the old nightclubs where you could drink until two or three in the morning?”
Committee chairman Graham Sutton, who is also a member of the council’s licensing committee, said: “I think any concerns as regards to licensing and that type of thing will come before licensing and we have a very good record of being fair but firm on that committee.”
All three planning applications - which currently do include Planet Ice despite concerns voiced last week by the ice rink operators that it will not be part of the revamped venue - were passed by the committee.
It will be at least another year before construction work for the long-awaited renovation will be completed.