Councillors and officers butted heads in the Town Hall as politicians wanted to see the Royal Oak, at 53 High Street, Mosborough, rebuilt brick by brick as punishment but officers said technicalities and the threat of fines prevented them.
The pub, which is believed to be between 200 and 300 years old, was reduced to rubble last year without permission.
Bar 24 Ltd, the developer, faced backlash for knocking it down but defended its actions saying it was concerned about people breaking into the building and “dropping dead” after gallons of chemicals were dumped on the site.
Council officers said regardless of the chemical waste, the pub “clearly should not have” been torn down without permission and its loss was significant.
However, they said retrospective permission should be given for the demolition and Bar 24’s plans to build a Co-op and other shops with 32 car parking spaces in its place. They came to this conclusion after assessing the plans by imagining the pub was still there.
After much discussion the planning and highways committee reluctantly gave the retrospective application a green light in a meeting this week with a “heavy heart”.
The vote was seven for, three against and one abstention.
Ahead of the vote, several councillors expressed their anger at what happened and their frustration with planning rules blocking them from taking action.
Councillor Tony Downing said: “This irresponsible action can be seen by future developers that it is okay not to abide by planning regulations and rules and by the public as bringing the planning service into question. I’m going to vote against the officer’s recommendation.”
Other councillors such as Peter Price shared the sentiment but said they did not have a choice but to approve it.
He said: “It’s very emotive this, and we all feel very angry…It’s an outrageous breach of planning rules however we are governed by planning laws unfortunately and they aren’t always fair.
“We have closed at least 12 pubs and working men’s clubs in this city over the last two years. Most of them have gone through the normal procedure…I know it’s hard to take but those are the facts we have to face. What we are faced with at the moment is a pile of rubble on a site…we have a duty to look at that site and think what is suitable irrespective of what has gone off in the past…
“I don’t think we have any alternative because if we turn it down it will almost certainly lead to an appeal and I’ve got a feeling the appeal will kick it into touch so I am going to vote in favour, reluctantly.”
Why isn’t the council taking action against the developer?
Councillors challenged officers about why enforcement action had not been taken and why they could not force the developer to rebuild the pub like in the 2015 case of the Carlton Tavern in London.
In response, Gareth Thompson, council officer, said: “It’s done when it’s expedient to do so. The Carlton Tavern is a totally separate case with different levels of issues…
“It wasn’t the right way of doing it, they didn’t get planning approval but that’s been justified in the planning assessment in terms of the loss. It’s the wrong way around however what they have put forward is a replacement scheme which we consider to be acceptable therefore granting permission would rectify the situation and it wouldn’t be expedient to make them rebuild the pub.”
Councillor Richard Williams suggested telling the government there is a flaw in its planning rules and to do something about it.