PLANS to build two houses in the grounds of a country pub near Malvern were turned down this week.

The owners of the Bear and Ragged Staff at Bransford wanted to build the houses as part of a scheme to secure the future of the business.

The planning application included, as well as the two houses for sale on the open market, another house for pub staff, an extension to the pub to house a small food shop, and a bigger car park with landscaping.

It also included a granny annex for the elderly parent of one of the business partners.

It was recommended for refusal by planning officers working for Malvern Hills District Council, and at a committee meeting on Wednesday, members voted 12 to one with one abstention to follow the recommendation.

The officers said that the plan was a development in the open countryside, and would be detrimental to the character and visual amenity of the area.

But Coun Tom Wells, the sole voter against the recommendation, described the design of the proposal as "spectacularly impressive" and said: "It gets rid of some ugly outbuildings and replaces them with something far more pleasing to the eye."

Other members voiced sympathy for the applicants, but said the two houses were the stumbling block, though they might have supported the rest of the proposals.

After the meeting co-owner Lynda Williams described the decision as a "terrible disappointment", but she and her partner would continue to look for ways to protect the business.

She said the plan had been to use the money from the site of the two homes to invest in the business and secure its future.

She said: "348 pubs in Worcestershire alone have closed over the last ten years, and we really believe that it's appropriate for planning departments to consider rural communities and their needs and not just go by book."