PLANS to close another village pub and turn it into a house suffered a last minute setback yesterday.

Planning officers at Hambleton development control committee had originally recommended approval for the application from Graham Johnson, landlord of the Boot and Shoe at Thirn, near Thornton Watlass, saying he had submitted enough information to show it was no longer a viable business.

When the committee met yesterday, however, officers changed their recommendation to one of refusal because a potential buyer for the pub had come forward within the last two weeks.

Mr Johnson's application was rejected by ten votes to four, even though he has turned down a final offer of £195,000.

Councillors heard that among the details submitted by Mr Johnson was a letter from his bank manager saying the business had been able to continue only because personal savings had been put into it.

Attempts had been made to sell the pub for several years but estate agents said few people had viewed it, possibly because there was little trade.

Mr Johnson, who said about ten regulars used the pub for drinking and occasional meals, will no longer have help in running it after his two daughters leave for university in September.

Planning officer Tim Wood said Mr Johnson's plans were well reasoned, but the situation had changed with the appearance of a potential buyer who had made a final written offer of £195,000 for the pub against an asking price of £220,000.

But Coun Andrew Robinson urged support for Mr Johnson and said: "This is just one potential buyer and he may pull out. If the pub was viable there would have been a lot more interest before now."

Coun David Smith said: "It is ironic that this has come along at this late stage."

Mr Johnson, who declined to comment after the meeting, had told planning officers that the £220,000 asking price was fixed for a speedy sale, taking account of any alterations which might be needed to the pub.