IT sparked one of the biggest planning battles the upmarket Hampshire town had ever seen.

An application to open a Wetherspoon cut-price pub in the historic heart of Lymington caused a storm of protest – and an even bigger avalanche of support.

Permission for the controversial scheme was finally granted in 2011 – almost a year to the day after the first application was rejected.

Now the 47 staff are busy putting the final touches to the two-storey pub and restaurant, which opens at 8am tomorrow.

The Six Bells is named after a pub that used to stand next door and became known as the headquarters of the bell ringers from the neighbouring St Thomas’s Church.

For the past 173 years the building has housed the C Ford & Co shop – later Palfrey & Kemp.

The Wetherspoon chain has spent £1.4m on converting the former furnishings store into Lymington’s newest eatery. But the C Ford & Co sign is displayed above the tables and a glass cabinet contains some of the ledgers from the 1950s.

Many of the walls are adorned with old photographs of Lymington, including aerial shots of the river.

The seating area near the main entrance is dominated by a large painting of well-known Lymingtonians including Ben Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history.

Seven angled mirrors at the top of the stairs enable customers to view the neighbouring church, part of which dates from 1250.

The new watering hole will be open from 8am to 11pm Sunday to Thursday and 8am until midnight on Friday and Saturday, with food being served until 10pm each day.

Lymington was dubbed “the snootiest town in Britain” after the first application to open a Wetherspoon outlet was rejected by district councillors in 2010.

Members voted against the scheme after objectors claimed that rowdy customers would upset pensioners living in nearby Monmouth House and mourners attending funerals at the church.

But Wetherspoon hit back, saying the chain had won numerous awards for the way it ran its 760 pubs.

Wetherspoon’s second application sparked more than 970 letters of objection.

However, the district council also received a 1,000-name petition and 110 letters from people supporting the proposal.

Members went against the advice of planning officers and approved the revised scheme.