MYSTERY still surrounds the fate of a former Romsey hotel after community leaders voted to defer plans to turn part of the building into flats.

A planning application was submitted to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) to create two flats and a maisonette spanning across the first and second floor of the Abbey Hotel, Church Street.

The plans, submitted by property investor Brightbeech Property Limited, aim to create see a two-bedroom house built at the back of the site, with zero car parking spaces.

If approved, the kitchen company, Kutchenhaus, could relocate into the ground floor of the property, however TVBC has stressed this move is not officially "part of the current application", but is being done under "development rights".

Now, the plans have been pushed back after councillors agreed at the Southern Area Planning Committee on Tuesday the lack of parking would not be suitable for future residents.

Earlier in the meeting, the plans were refused by nine votes to two, with councillors citing the following reasons: a loss of tourist accommodation in the town, no parking spaces could result in more pressure on off-street parking nearby and the conservation area could be negatively impacted.

However, case officer for TVBC, Paul Goodman, suggested the community leaders defer the plans to allow them to "discuss with the applicant the ability to provide parking", adding he was "struggling with the three reasons for refusal, given the compelling evidence the applicant has given".

Cllr Alan Dowden, who represents Valley Park on the borough council, said: "I don't like the application as it is, but I think it would at least be useful to defer the plans to see if we can get some parking there, because there is the risk if we want to appeal then we will lose it.

"We have a much better chance of getting something that is acceptable, because the space is there and it would be in the applicant's interest to allocate some parking."

Cllr John Parker, who represents the Romsey Tadburn ward, said: "It is the fact the Abbey Hotel is in an area, which is right for parking at the best of times.

"There is scope for increased pressure on that limited amount of off-street parking in the area and further afield in other residential streets within walking distance of the site."

Cllr Parker also objected to the plans, believing the flats would result in a "loss of tourist accommodation in the Romsey area".

He added councillors could not discuss the "impact it will have in the conservation area", due to not all "parts of the site" being included in the plans.

Director of Brightbeech Property Limited, Tim Lincoln, said: "We are disappointed that the planning committee ignored the planning officer's recommendation for approval of the application and initially proposed refusing the application.

"We share the disappointment of the councillors that the building is no longer viable as a hotel, but given the extraordinary negative economic circumstances we are experiencing we had hoped that a proposal for substantial financial investment to a building that has been in disrepair for more than six years would have been welcomed."

He added: "The principle reason cited for refusal was on the grounds of lack of parking and it was regrettable that councillors chose to ignore their own highways experts, Hampshire County Council, who are satisfied that the development does not require on-site parking.

"It is important to clarify that planning consent was not required to convert the ground floor of the premises to a shop, so those works will happen shortly.

"The planning department have been very thorough and professional in their interrogation of our application and we will continue to engage with them to try and find a way forward."