A Bushey pub which was given special protection against redevelopment two years ago will have its status stripped in order to become flats.

Hertsmere Borough Council listed the former Royal Oak in Sparrows Herne in 2019 as an asset of community value, but this has now been removed following a request from the owner of the building.

The borough council listed the building after receiving a nomination from the Friends of the Royal Oak, and the status usually lasts for five years.

It offers some protection from developments and, if it is listed for sale, the community can enact a Right to Bid to purchase the asset.

But the pub closed in early 2020, and planning permission has since been granted for separate schemes of six and seven flats, including the latter following an appeal.

Watford Observer: Inside The Royal Oak pub in Bushey before it closedInside The Royal Oak pub in Bushey before it closed

Following the approval, solicitors acting on behalf of the owners contacted the council asking to the Royal Oak to be removed from the list of assets of community value.

At an Executive meeting of Hertsmere's senior councillors on Tuesday, councillors were asked to consider the application, and agreed with the recommendation before them to remove the pub as a community value asset.

Council officers found the granting of planning permission had resulted in an "immediate and significant" increase in the value of the pub building, now worth £1.25m.

Officers said the increase in market value means it is out of the reach of the community, and the likelihood of its conversion meant the council had a duty to remove the pub from the list.

Watford Observer:

Bushey North councillor Jerry Evans, who is a non-executive member, said he did not see a reason for a decision to be made before any development work had begun.

He told the committee: "I don’t really quite understand why it has to be removed. Obviously if the flats were built and it’s no longer a pub, that’s understandable.

"But at this stage, the idea of an asset of community value is to give the possibility of residents to club together with the money and they have the right to buy it, rather than a developer buying it, obviously at the same price.

“The fact that [pub market value] is £1.2m, you’re probably right, it probably does mean it’s not going to happen but why take that chance away from them? I don’t quite understand what the upside of taking it away from them is, and I certainly do see a downside."

Cllr Evans' Liberal Democrat colleague Cllr Paul Richards acknowledged the committee "hands were tied" when it comes to the decision, but said: "It just makes a mockery of the possibility of an asset being placed as an asset of community value, so I wholeheartedly agree with my colleague."

Watford Observer: Inside The Royal Oak pub before it closedInside The Royal Oak pub before it closed

Conservative Executive member Cllr Harvey Cohen responded: "On a personal point of view, and I’m sure all councillors here agree, to see a pub close is really saddening. We realise pubs were the centre of communities and I think that is really important, we miss that, but the sad reality is that the public don’t support pubs and pubs are empty.

"If the public supported pubs, then developers wouldn’t have a say in it because they’d be profitable. Pubs are not profitable at the moment because the public have not supported them. It pains me to say that, I’m not happy to start de-listing pubs and seeing them sold, but this is the reality of life.

"It has been on the market for nine or ten months, we’ve heard nothing from the community, it’s been on the list of community assets for over two years. What you say might be a nice thing but it doesn’t really happen, the community will not be buying this – so it’s right it goes off the list in this case."