PLANS to 'cram' nine dwellings onto land previously used as a pub were branded as "the unacceptable face of development" as they were rejected by councillors.
The proposals to replace the Red Lion in Amersham were slated by members of Chiltern District Council's planning committee, and their opposition to the planned development was met by applause from residents in a packed public gallery.
Residents and councillors said they were outraged and disgusted the pub, in Chestnut Lane, had been pulled down just a day after it was sold to developers Clearview Homes - apparently without the council's knowledge.
Howard Newton of Amersham Town Council said a "valuable amenity was destroyed at a stroke" and Clearview's ignorance of a requirement to serve 28 days' notice to demolish was slammed as "a cynical method of getting round the law".
Nobody from Clearview was present at Thursday night's meeting, as residents and committee members took it in turns to criticise the pub's demolition and the plans that had been put forward.
Cllr Nigel Shepherd led the way by saying: "I'm old enough to remember the financial downturn of the 70s when Edward Heath called Lonrho the unacceptable face of capitalism. We have in front of us what could be the unacceptable face of development.
"Clearview have cynically sidestepped the planning system by the simple method of pulling down an employment site and claiming it as an empty space.
"The top part of Amersham is seriously lacking in community facilities and community spaces. Clearview have come into town with their size ten boots and knocked down one of three pubs in top Amersham.
"Housing is required but a cursory glance at the core strategy [the council's planning policy] shows sites have been identified that meet that need. The land required from small sites like the Red Lion is precisely zero.
"As much as possible has been cramped into as little space as possible. Here we are yet again considering a development with miniscule rooms and postage stamp gardens."
He suggested a better plan would be for "four houses, not dwellings", explaining his reasoning as: "It will enable Clearview to leave enough space to partially compensate for the community facility and trees they so callously destroyed."
Cllr Nik Stewert said the council's planning department had no prior knowledge of any plans to demolish the Red Lion, adding legal action against the developer is a possibility.
He said: "It clearly shows Clearview are either incompetent or negligent. Either way, I wouldn't want anything to do with them if I were buying a property.
"Cllr Shepherd used the word appalling - they are words most of this committee would agree with using at this outrageous lack of regard, not only for the planning department, not only a sensible way forward for development, but also for the reasons the people of Amersham have put forward."
A total of 32 letters of objection were received by the council and Chestnut Lane resident Heather Baker reflected their views at the meeting by telling committee members: "We were disgusted and outraged at the way Clearview have acted.
"It [giving planning permission] would give a green light for developers to demolish first and ask questions later."
However the plans - for two pairs of semi-detached houses, a terrace of three houses and a building comprising two flats - were unamimously rejected by the committee.