A FRUSTRATED former pub owner said she's stuck in a Catch 22 situation after being unable to prove she's lived there for more than four years - during which time it's been closed as a business.

The Pheasant at Ballinger closed as a pub in November 2008 due to a lack of custom, prompting owner Jane King to put it up for sale.

No new owner came forward so instead Mrs King - who has continued to live at the pub since it ceased trading, converting the former bar area into a living room - made two applications two years apart to convert the failed business into housing.

Both were rejected by Chiltern District Council and turned down on appeal.

Last year Mrs King applied for a Certificate of Lawfulness from the council, which will permit a change of use if a business premises has not been used for its original purpose for at least four years.

But council planning bosses said there wasn't enough proof Mrs King had been using the Pheasant for residential purposes and have now thwarted her latest attempt to convert the old pub into living accommodation.

A third appeal against the refusal to award a Certificate of Lawfulness has now been turned down by the Planning Inspectorate, despite representations made on Mrs King's behalf by family and friends.

Mrs King said it was never her intention to turn the pub into accommodation when she bought it in 2006, and she has left the bar and toilets in place with a view to selling the premises as a business venture.

To further complicate matters the pub has also been listed by the council as an Asset of Community Value, meaning the pub cannot be put back on the market for another six months so interested parties can submit bids for it.

Mrs King, 64, said: "I'm in a Catch 22 - I cannot stay in an unheated house and I am not allowed to dispose of my property. I have been forced to take my property off the market so that the local people of Ballinger can bid for it. "I cannot emphasise strongly enough that I feel the law has let me down. I live here and I can't prove it."

Mrs King bought the pub for £650,000 and spent a further £250,000 on repairs but closed it less than two and a half years later.

She said: "I shouldn't have bought it, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I went in at the wrong time, in the recession."

Mrs King added she had "no money and not a lot of energy" to launch a fresh appeal, but said: "I hate being a victim and I am sure, because I am optimistic and my glass is always half full, that there will be a way out which would suit me and the council."

Chiltern District Council spokesman Rachel Prance said: "The council considered that the evidence submitted by Mrs King did not demonstrate that a material change of use had occurred, i.e. that the limited residential use taking place in the former bar and trade area was not materially greater than the use which could have lawfully taken place while the Pheasant was trading as a public house/restaurant. The council therefore refused to grant the Certificate. Mrs King then exercised her right to appeal against that refusal.

"The appeal was considered by an independent Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate who held a public inquiry and listened to evidence from Mrs King, her friends and family, as well as the council’s planning officer and a number of local residents.

"After looking at and reviewing all the evidence thoroughly and also visiting the Pheasant, the Planning Inspector upheld the council’s decision. He concluded that there was insufficient evidence to show that a material change of use had occurred and dismissed Mrs King’s the appeal. The process has been fair and transparent with the full file papers on the application and appeal available on the council’s website."