PLANS described by residents as 'architectural vandalism' in Croxley Green have been approved by Three Rivers District Council (TRDC).
Developer Kebbell Country Homes had previously submitted six applications to demolish Applegarth - a much-loved 20th century property in Parrots Close, situated within the Croxley Green Conservation Area - and replace it with detached family homes or flats.
Five of the six applications were rejected by TRDC, with three later dismissed at appeal; one was withdrawn.
But councillors at a development control committee meeting last Thursday said they had no reason to refuse the latest plans to replace Applegarth, which lies opposite The Green, with two detached homes.
The proposals will also result in 18 trees, including one holly and two cedars, being cut down, although a number of 'less important' trees will remain.
Councillor Barbara Green said: "The plans are set well back from The Green and much better than the previous applications. Although I know that residents are very attached to this house, it doesn't have any architectural merit and is not considered to have enough significance to be locally listed."
But some residents fear the decision could have broader implications for the conservation area.
Alison Wall, of Parrots Close, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of residents opposed to the development, said: "We are very disappointed by the decision. It sends a very worrying message that The Green is now up for grabs.
"Applegarth is a really nice house and nothing needed to be changed. We have been fighting this for three years and we will be keeping a very close eye on how the development progresses."
Chairman of the Croxley Green Residents Association, Barry Grant, said: "Just because the design in this application may be better than the six previous schemes it does not preserve or enhance the conservation area - there is room for further improvement.
"On the basis of the previous applications rejected, it was going to be the best so far, but did it pass the test of preserving or enhancing the conservation area?
"Let's see in a year or so when the development has been built."
Croxley Green Parish Council (CGPC), which declared it was unopposed to the scheme, has also been criticised. Mr Grant said: "It would help matters if a local parish plan specifically referred to the need for preserving Croxley's conservation areas, making the parish council the first line of defence."
Chairman of the parish council, Marion Birch, responded: "CGPC is consulted on planning applications but we do not set policies and we can make recommendations only, based on planning legislation."