An "historical" pub will be turned into flats after councillors "reluctantly" gave the green light last night.

Setha Sparrow Lane Ltd returned to the planning committee at Hertsmere Borough Council for a third time in their quest to get permission to redevelop The Royal Oak in Bushey.

The applicant wants to convert the loft and build a three storey rear extension, which will turn the pub into six flats.

Councillors had already refused the scheme in Sparrows Herne twice - then for seven and eight flats respectively - due to the height and mass of the development.

This time round, a side extension had been removed from the scheme.

When the committee discussed the scheme last night, many of them had concerns about losing the recently renovated pub, which unexpectedly closed earlier this year, even before the coronavirus pandemic.

There were even a flurry of calls to defer the latest scheme because councillors had concerns about how waste collection would be carried out due to a "narrow entrance" off a "busy road".

But as the discussion went on, it emerged that neither the council's waste and refuse officers had any objections and neither did Hertfordshire Highways.

Councillor John Graham and Councillor Jeremy Newmark, who both spoke towards the end of the discussion, both acknowledged the "emotion" attached to the pub, but said this cannot be a reason to turn the application down.

Cllr Graham said: "This is a site the whole committee would love to turn down…but it becomes more and more difficult to find reasons (to refuse the scheme).

Watford Observer:

The Royal Oak was refurbished in 2018 but 'unexpectedly' closed earlier this year

The rest of the committee seemed swayed by Cllr Graham and Newmark's comments, with Cllr Brent Rosehill saying the council would have "no leg to stand on from a legal perspective".

Cllr Seamus Quilty said: "I don't want to vote for this but it is policy compliant."

The application was moved for approval by Councillor Jerry Evans with a "heavy heart" and the scheme was passed with ten votes and two abstentions.

Two people spoke against the application during the night.

Natalie Tebbitts, who lives in Bushey and spoke on behalf of the community, said: "Community pubs are one of Britain’s oldest institutions. They are so much more than just a business that sells alcohol. Many play an important role at the heart of their community.

"They play a key role in local economies employing local people.

"They bring all ages, backgrounds together and can help with problems like loneliness, isolation, and wellbeing. The time we are in at the moment with the global pandemic and lockdown we find ourselves, it only strengthens our argument that isolation and inability to socialise is detrimental to the mental health of the community."

Councillor Anne Swerling, spoke as a community advocate in her capacity as a local councillor. She urged members to vote against the scheme and pointed to the fact the building is registered as a community asset.

The applicant's second application for seven flats is pending appeal.