Ambitious plans to create shops, restaurants and cafes as part of a major transformation of the Old Falcon Hotel in St Neots have been refused by Huntingdon District Council (HDC).

Dennis Whitfield, of Whitfield Associates, bought the Grade Two Listed building, which backs on to the Great River Ouse, and had submitted plans for 14 flats and commercial outlets after years of wrangling with planners about what they deemed acceptable.

St Neots Town Council objected to the plans on the grounds of: loss of light, noise and smells, loss of trees and inadequate parking and access.

The building, at 12-14 Market Square, sits in a conservation area and some of the interior dates back to the 15th Century, other parts are thought to have been added in the 17th Century. Cambridgeshire County Council's archeology team has asked to carry out an investigation of the site before any building work begins, but has said it does not object to the plans.

At a meeting on December 23, HDC planners refused the application on the grounds it would "harm the setting, character and appearance" of the hotel and neighbouring buildings.

They also raised concerns about the detrimental effect on "the views from the Market Square, river, bridge to the north-east,

and riverside park, west of the river.

"The development would result in significant harm to the listed building, its setting, the setting of the adjoining listed building and the character and appearance of the conservation area, harm to the amenities of the occupiers of 2 River Terrace and harm to a yew tree. The council can

demonstrate a satisfactory housing land supply and therefore there is no special justification for the development to outweigh the objections," according to the planning document.

The rear of the building overlooks the Riverside Park and Mr Whitfield's plan includes the demolition of an old boathouse at the rear, which Historic England has said should be refurbished rather than demolished.

Mr Whitfield has told The Hunts Post previously that he is frustrated with the planning process. The Hunts Post understands he plans to launch an appeal against the decision.