Campaigners accused a church group behind plans to demolish a social centre to make way for housing of being hostile and intimidating.
Speaking at a planning meeting considering the proposal to demolish Tring’s New Mill Social Centre objector Carol Woodstock said: “We are simply trying to protect our community and one of its prime assets.
“The church is saying whatever happens it will not allow the village to have a community hall on this site, which feels very intimating and not very neighbourly.”
Tring Team Parish wants to replace the social centre in Gamnel, which is now closed, to build four three-bedroom and two two-bedroom houses. One property would house a full time chaplain for Tring School.
The planning application had been deferred by Dacorum Borough Council’s development and control committee back in August so that more information could be provided about the viability of the building and the suitability of alternative provision.
At the latest meeting on Thursday evening, Tring Local History Museum chairman Tim Amsden said the latest information provided by the church: “Merely entrenched their hostile attitude.”
But Rev Hew Bellis told the committee: “I truly believe it will be of benefit to all of the community of Tring.
“We believe it is the best way we can fulfil our function and support the community.”
Mr Bellis said that during his time as a member of the hall’s management board concerns were raised in 2009 that the facility was under-used and the building was beginning to deteriorate.
Regular users of the hall have found new homes for their activities but some councillors argued that this is because they had been forced to do so by the closure of the social centre.
Councillor Rosemarie Hollinghurst said: “They either had to go away with their tail in between their legs or find somewhere else to go.”
The church has said if the hall did reopen, which it said is unlikely due to the costs involved, it would be used for public worship open to all - in line with the objectives of the Parochial Church Council.
Councillor Olive Conway said: “That sounds like blackmail to me.”
Councillor Lloyd Harris said: “It is up to the owners whether they run it into the ground or not but a decent owner of that building would not have a problem covering their costs.”
Councillors voted to refuse the planning application on the grounds that they did not agree that the centre is not viable and other financial options need to be explored, no evidence had been provided to show that alternative sites are available for non-religious groups and a financial contribution had not been offered towards the social infrastructure.