The "final nail in the coffin" has been hammered into Rickmansworth’s once diverse economy as businesses are increasingly replaced with housing, according to the chairman of the town’s chamber of commerce. 

Nina Hosking, who became chamber chairman in 2009, said the increase in housing at the expense of businesses shows the town has become an "easy target" for developers.

She said: "Developers are targeting Rickmansworth as they see it as the soft option."

Mrs Hosking’s concerns come after Three Rivers’ planning committee approved the controversial application to convert Rickmansworth’s last remaining hotel, Long Island Exchange, into flats and houses last month.

The fourth application lodged by developers, Keay Homes, to demolish parts of the Victoria Close hotel to make way for flats and houses was unanimously approved by politicians. 

Despite the hotel becoming a locally listed building, it was also earmarked for housing in the district’s allocation site list.

Mrs Hosking said: "The zoning of these sites and the imminent demise of our only hotel in Rickmansworth will be the final nail in the coffin of a once vibrant and diverse economy.  

"(There has been a) disgusting lack of consultation with the local community - business or otherwise, and I speak as both a resident and the chairman of the chamber.  

"During the zoning of these sites for housing there was no business representation on the Local Strategic Partnership."

Kevin Snow, district council spokesman, said: "The business community was consulted along with residents. It is being considered currently by the Planning Inspectorate as part of the ongoing examination process of site allocations."

He added: "Consultations on the detailed documents were very thorough including events at libraries, public exhibitions, press releases, press notices, writing to over 5,000 stakeholders in the district, the council magazine and through ward councillors." 

However, Mrs Hosking said that taking a once "vibrant" business town and replacing those sites with housing will only lead to Rickmansworth’s demising economy.

She said: "We have gradually been whittled down over the years into a small high street."

As a result, Mrs Hosking said employment rates in the district have suffered, with rates declining from 78 per cent at the beginning of the recession to 72 per cent.

She added: "Rickmansworth deserves better from the officers and councillors at Three Rivers."

One of the reasons why Mrs Hosking thinks the town is becoming "forgotten" by the council is because it is one of the few unparished areas in the district.

Campaigns are seeking to create a town council for the unparished wards of Three Rivers.

Mrs Hosking believes the additional local authority tier will give Rickmansworth residents a greater voice when it comes to those decisions that affect their town.