A planning loophole means that a pub controversially closed to the public so that it could be made into a home could more than double in size.
The owners of Bovingdon’s Royal Oak have applied for permission to put a two storey side extension on the building which sits within the Green Belt.
‘Permitted development rights’ - the right to carry out changes to a building without planning permission - have already been granted for three single storey rear extensions - although these have not yet been built.
Bovingdon Parish Council and eight householders objected to the latest planning application, which was considered by Dacorum Borough Council’s development control committee on Thursday evening.
In her report to the committee case officer Jackie Ambrose said: “The proposed two storey side extension on its own would be 19 per cent [floor area increase] and comfortably below the 30 per cent allowance but if taken with the granted rear extensions would cumulatively amount to 57 per cent, which is well above the tolerance level.”
Councillor Fiona Macdonald said: “I’m concerned there is a bit of a strategy that is going on here.”
In her report Ms Ambrose said: “There is sufficient evidence through planning case law to conclude that an application for an extension cannot reasonably take into account what could be built under permitted development, whether there is formal consent for such works or whether it is just speculative.”
The agent working on behalf of the Royal Oak owners had told Ms Ambrose in an email: “Although ultimately the applicants may not even construct the rear extension, they will not agree to not build the extension. You cannot refuse the extension because they may also construct future extensions.
The committee voted to grant permission for the two storey side extension.
An application for a certificate of lawfulness for a large outbuilding comprising of a swimming pool and gym in the former pub garden is still pending.