A planning committee member claimed “we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t” after realising they were powerless to stop caravans being sited in a rural location.

However Denbighshire councillors still rejected the “partially retrospective” operational development on the land adjacent to the Farmers’ Arms at Waen, St Asaph, by 14 votes to three.

The application was to approve work on the site which would allow it to be a “certified location” for the Caravan and Motorhome Club.

The committee heard the work needed planning permission for alterations to the area next to the 18th century inn if it was to become certificated “with facilities” with the club, offering services such as as drinking water, electricity points, hard standing and chemical waste disposal.

Members heard there had been 14 local objections but owners Peter and Elaine Molloy had garnered as many letters of support.

However planning officers told members even if they refused permission most of the work had already been done and the applicants could become certificated without facilities by the Caravan and Motorhome Club – which meant the council couldn’t stop caravans staying there anyway

Officer Paul Griffin said: “The Caravan Club are just waiting to see if it’s a site with amenities or not.”

Officers recommended approving the plans and said refusing could lead to the council losing a potential appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.

It prompted Cllr Peter Scott (St Asaph) to say: “We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t (approve the plans).

“I just worry we are having the wool pulled over our eyes.”

The meeting heard Denbighshire’s officers had visited the site after hearing about the work and served an enforcement warning because of work that had taken place already.

It also heard no ecological surveys had been carried out before a pond was installed on the land where five caravans would be sited.

Tremeirchion, Cwm and Waen community council objected to the scheme, citing traffic issues on the narrow lane that passes the venue and  “a detrimental effect on the properties in that locality”.

It also had concerns about noise pollution and claimed there was “high local opposition” to the plans.

Local county council ward member Cllr Christine Marston (Tremeirchion) said the work had been done without permission, plus she had concerns about access to the site from the highway and about what would happen to waste from chemical toilets.

She said no consultations had been carried out before the work commenced.

Cllr Mark Young pointed out planning permission should have been sought before applying for certification by the Caravan and Motorhome Club, according to the UK Government’s website.

Mr and Mrs Molloy spent two years renovating the Farmers’ Arms, which sits on an unclassified road near the Brynibod junction to the A55.

The venue has won rave reviews on TripAdvisor for its accommodation and fine food.

Mr Molloy said certification from the caravan club would help supplement his business, as the facilities could be used by club members.