A PLAN to protect the district’s pubs must be put in place, councillors warned, as they begrudgingly approved Morrison’s proposals for the Downley Donkey.

The retailer applied to Wycombe District Council to extend the pub in Plomer Green Lane and install an ATM and floodlighting.

WDC’s Planning Committee approved the plans with conditions the retailer re-evaluates the car-park lighting plan; as members highlighted the fact the pub never needed the floodlights.

But councillors bemoaned the fact their hands were tied as a pub-to-shop change of use application does not require planning permission.

Cllr Simon Parker said: “We have a pub that is going to be changed into a shop but I fear we won’t be having this discussion much longer.

“We have a shortage of pubs and lots of these convenience shops and it is alarming that we have no power. Both of our hands are tied again.”

Cllr Alan Turner said the loss of pubs is a concern and believes it is time the council drew up a battle plan to protect its pubs.

He said: “There are pub companies that make sure pubs are run down, make it difficult for anyone else to go in, and then say it is not needed any more before they make a huge profit by selling it to a supermarket.

“It’s about time we stopped talking and actually did something, and I would suggest we make an agenda item to look at this problem because it won’t be long before we do not have any pubs left.”

Downley Parish Council, village residents and ward councillors Paul Turner and Wendy Mallen spoke passionately against the plans to transform the Downley Donkey into a Morrison’s M Local store.

They highlighted fears about traffic, noise problems for nearby residents from the supermarket’s refrigeration unit and the loss of trade Downley’s independent shops would face with a new rival in the village.

Cllr Jean Teesdale summed up the mood among most of the committee members last night when she said: “It’s a shame to see pubs closing down everywhere but our hands are tied on this.

“I think looking again at the car-park lighting situation is about as far as we can go on this particular application.”