One of the New Forest's best known eateries is facing an uncertain future amid plans to sell 126 Whitbread sites across the UK.

Whitbread Inns is carrying out a wide-ranging review and has confirmed that its proposals "could impact" The Heath pub and restaurant at Dibden Purlieu.

The landmark watering hole overlooks the busy A326 and its junction with the road to Beaulieu - one of the Forest's tourist hot spots.

Ward councillor Malcolm Wade said: "There has been a pub on that site for as long as I can remember. I would like to see it remain open as it's a popular and well located establishment and the only public house in Dibden Purlieu."

Daily Echo: The Heath at Dibden Purlieu is facing an uncertain future following proposals announced by WhitbreadThe Heath at Dibden Purlieu is facing an uncertain future following proposals announced by Whitbread (Image: Newsquest)

Whitbread Inns, which owns several brands including Premier Inn, Beefeater, and Brewers Fayre, has around 840 sites across the UK.

It plans to convert 112 restaurants into hotel extensions while closing more than 120 of its less lucrative eateries. The move will leave the company with 387 restaurants that are part of hotels, plus 196 branded restaurants.

READ MORE: Pubs across the UK warn of mass closures due to ever-increasing energy bills

The company is focusing on the more profitable hotels arm of its business in a move that could result in 1,500 job losses.

Daily Echo: The Heath at Dibden PurlieuThe Heath at Dibden Purlieu (Image: Newsquest)

In a statement Whitbread, confirmed it planned to "exit" 126 restaurants, but said it aimed to sell them as going concerns.

"The proceeds from these disposals will be used to help fund our investment in building a more tailored, integrated restaurant at our affected hotels as well as the construction of new hotel rooms across the estate.

"The majority of our sites, including our existing 387 integrated restaurants and our remaining portfolio of 196 better performing branded restaurants, will continue to operate as normal.

"While these plans are still subject to consultation, we will seek to find alternative opportunities wherever possible.

"We expect to retain a significant proportion of those who wish to remain with us and we will be providing dedicated support to our teams."

READ MORE: Closing date announced for Fareham Wetherspoons pub

Chief executive officer Dominic Paul added: "I recognise that these changes will be unsettling for affected team members.

"We are committed to working hard to enable as many as possible of those affected to stay with Whitbread by either transferring into roles this plan will create, or by taking up other vacancies across the business."

Asked about The Heath, a Whitbread spokesperson told the Daily Echo: "We have announced proposals which could impact the site.

"It is still currently open and trading. There is nothing further we can add as the consultation is still live."