Plans to regenerate Lee’s derelict hotel have been emphatically refused by councillors.

North Devon Council's planning committee unanimously rejected the application from Acorn Blue to demolish the former Lee Bay Hotel and build 21 homes, a cafe and a toilet block in its place.

The committee's decision was applauded by the many Lee residents in attendance at the meeting at Barnstaple Rugby Club on Wednesday (April 17).

As well as refusing the application, the committee recommended the council undertakes supplementary planning guidance to work out a long-term plan for the derelict building, which has been empty for 13 years.

The decision went with the recommendations of planning officers, who said the scheme would fail to preserve or enhance Lee's conservation area, conflicted with advice set out in national planning guidelines and was outside the North Devon and Torridge Local Plan.

Councillor David Worden moved for refusal. He said: “We've got once chance to get this right, so said one speaker, and I don't think this particular scheme is the right scheme. It's not supported by many people.

“It's a very sensitive area. We don't want to ruin it for generations to come.”

The plans were submitted as a 23-home scheme in 2017 but were amended in February this year. It followed a refusal by the committee of a 20-home development at the same site in 2016.

Similar in scale to the former hotel, the development proposed a mixture of two-to-three and four-bedroom maisonettes, two-storey houses and flats.

Architect Daniel Lugston said the site offered better access, more parking and better open space for the village, and argued the buildings were smaller and pulled further back from the road than the empty hotel.

Agent Chris Beaver said he felt the scheme met the test for development in the conservation area.

Residents' group chairman Paul Scarrott said the site 'wasn't just any brownfield site' or a case of 'replacing square feet with square feet'.

David Biggerstaff said the 21 homes would be a 37 per cent increase in housing in the village.

Councillor Caroline Leaver said: “This is a very special site. We know there have been proposals to do things with this site for a long time and possibly everyone is heartily sick of having to talk about this again and again.

“I don't think the fact this has come back many times means we should accept it. We have to look at this special site in context of now and in the future.

“As a committee we need to be able to look in the mirror and say 'we are proud of that decision'. I say approving it wouldn't be something to be proud of. I would be embarrassed.”