A controversial plan for four shepherd hut holiday homes in the pub garden at the Hare and Hounds at Waytown has been approved.

Opinion locally is divided over whether they will help the pub or drive local customers away.

Brewers Palmers are banking on its £150,000 investment boosting trade. Its agent says that like many rural pubs the Hare and Hounds is struggling to survive.

More than 30 letters of objection were received to the planning application but Dorset Council officers says there was nothing, in planning terms, to object to.

Concerns ranged from the effect on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, parking problems and the loss of some of the garden. Others said there could be an impact on other holiday businesses in the area.

Objector Glen Bishop told councillors in Dorchester on Thursday that as a business plan something which alienates almost 100 per cent of your customers, had little to recommend it.

He said he feared that locals would feel driven out of the garden in summer because of the space being taken up by the huts, their occupants and the new toilet block.

“Shepherd huts are an easy way to close the business down…people come to visit because of the beauty of the area,” he said.

Roger Miles told councillors that the huts would leave little room for community events, including weddings and family gatherings.

“It seriously jeopardises the community aspect and its seriously misleading to say it will have no effect on the AoNB. These huts will be an eyesore on the skyline,” he said.

Local councillor Tony Alford backed the residents’ comments and questioned whether people with disabilities would be able to access the huts. He also questioned if the sewage system could cope with extra people.

Agent for the company Nigel Jones said there were no technical or policy reasons to reject the application.

He said the pub, like many others, was ‘on the edge of viability’ which the holiday homes should help tip in the right direction.

“To suggest this will be detrimental is incredulous. My clients are prepared to put their money in to keep it going…here we have an application to try and make more use of it for the community,” he said.

Said Cllr Kate Wheller: “I don’t believe local people would cut off their noses to spite their face if they stopped using the pub because of the shepherd’s huts,” adding that the argument over disabled access was a ‘red herring.”

“If the pub can remain viable because of the shepherd huts it’s a huge bonus,” she said.

The pub was declared a ‘community asset’ in 2016 after a campaign by the Supporters of The Hare and Hounds (SHH) group. The organisation was among the objectors claiming that the holiday homes would have a detrimental effect on the pub’s viability and would look out of place in the area.