A BUSINESS owner in Hartlebury thought he had been given the green light to proceed with plans to build 22 houses after a bizarre council planning mix-up suggested his failed application had actually been approved.

David Higgs, who owns DH Commercials (Leasing) Ltd, lodged the bid to build the homes at Station Park, Station Road, Hartlebury, in January.

After permission was refused, however, on April 6 by Wychavon District Council's planning committee, a decision notice was issued headed "Planning approval notice" and continued "Approved - outline".

The notice continued to detail the planning application and what were actually reasons for the council's refusal - including because the development would have been on green belt land.

Mr Higgs, however, continued working towards the next step of his application, thinking the outline matters had been approved until, April 28, when Wychavon had issued an amended "refusal" notice.

He was initially "surprised" the council had "changed their minds" in that way after 22 days but a spokesman for Wychavon said the decision had always been refusal and the notice had simply been printed on an approval template by mistake.

Mr Higgs, however, said his architect had continued to work on the development, thinking outline permission had been approved. He said the mistake also meant he had lost time to put an appeal together, as the council had stuck to its original decision date.

The council's head of housing and planning, Giorio Framalicco, said: "A decision notice setting out the council's concerns about the development was sent to the applicant.

"Unfortunately, this letter was headed approval instead of refusal. The matter was quickly rectified once the error was known. The applicant is in no doubt that his application for planning permission has been refused."

He added the mistake only affected the notice's heading and information and detail of the notice remained unchanged.

Mr Higgs, who said he wanted to expand his business at the site he had been at for 19 years, said he felt "let down" by the council.

"I feel we have been treated very badly and am surprised they can treat a local company who employ people like this," he added. "We did not even get a letter of apology from them - they just changed it on the website."

He added: "The Government are telling councils to pass green field sites but they are not taking any notice - here is a prime example."