Councillors have approved plans for a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Bideford after they could not find a ‘robust’ planning reason to refuse it.

Members of Torridge District Council's plans committee initially voted five-votes-to-four yesterday (Thursday) to refuse the application for the nine-bedroom HMO above Barclays Bank in Bideford High Street.

But they were left scratching their heads when told by committee chairman Rose Lock they must think of robust planning reasons for refusal.

The meeting was taken into part two and the public ejected for members to hear advice from the senior solicitor.

After a 15-minute discussion behind closed doors, members had a change of heart and all but one voted to approve the plans.

Councillor Peter Christie, the only councillor to vote against the proposals, said he felt the idea of a HMO with nine bedrooms and only two kitchenettes was 'archaic'.

He said: "I think it's excellent these underused properties can be brought back into use but what I do have a problem with is shared facilities.

"In this day and age it seems archaic; I can't believe we've got two kitchenettes serving nine people. There are going to be personality clashes."

Councillor Christie said there had been problems with similar HMOs in Torridge, and for these reasons he could not support it.

Members also raised issues with the idea of a waste and recycling area in the small hallway, saying it would cause issues such as bad smells.

But they were told the waste and recycling officers in Torridge had no objection to the plans.

Councillor Kenny Davis also said he was concerned about a lack of parking. But the committee heard Highways had no objections to the proposals.

There was also a concern that if each occupant had a bike, there would not be enough space to store them in the hallway.

After their discussions in part two, councillors added an amendment to the application, a condition that there must be a specified area for bicycle and pushchair storage.

By adding this amendment it meant they could vote on the proposals again and approve the plans.

The top two floors of the building are currently vacant.