SMOKERS have blasted pub and club owners for poor planning after it was revealed just a handful had applied to build outdoor smoking shelters.

With just eight weeks left until the ban on smoking in public places comes into force, many premises were expected to request planning permission from the council for designated smoking areas.

But officials today told how they had only received nine applications from across the whole of Basildon.

John Nelson, 62, of Luncies Road, Basildon, said: "I can't believe they're banning us smokers from pubs. It makes matters worse there won't be anywhere to go outside.

"All the pleasures in life are being taken away from the working man.

"It's always been one of the simple pleasures to enjoy a smoke and a drink, but now it looks like we're not welcome in pubs or anywhere near them.

"You would have thought landlords would have planned ahead."

Nick Merenda is the landlord of the Moon on the Square, which already has a no-smoking policy and is one of the few pubs to apply.

He said: "I'm a smoker myself and think there should be somewhere for people to smoke outside.

"Banning it indoors creates a much nicer environment. But people who want to smoke outside should be sheltered from the wind and rain."

However Neil Maguire, duty manager of the King's Head pub and restaurant in Southend Road, Billericay, disagreed.

He said: "We have been non-smoking since August last year. It hasn't been a problem not having a shelter so far, so we don't feel the need for one now, but we wouldn't rule it out."

The late-night bars which have applied for shelters are Lava and Ignite, Bonds, and Jumpin Jacks, all in the Festival Leisure Park.

The Moon on the Square pub, the Four Seasons, in Victoria Road, Laindon, the Blue Boar, in High Road, Billericay, and the Crane, Denys drive, Basildon, make up the four pubs.

Gala Bingo in South- ernhay, Basildon, and High Road, Pitsea, complete the nine applicants so far.

Clive Simpson, head of planning at Basildon Council, said: "We are asking businesses to decide early if they want to submit a planning application, so we have enough time to process the ones we receive."

The smoking ban will apply to almost all enclosed public spaces and workplaces including permanent structures and temporary ones such as tents and marquees.