Plans to replace historic stables with homes have been thrown out to the delight of the equestrian community.

Racehorses belonging to a former Prince of Wales were trained at Priam Lodge, in Burgh Heath Road, Epsom, in the late 19th century and a horsewoman ran livery stables there until February.

Council officers have refused planning permission for the development of four houses to replace a complex of buildings including stables, a house and demolition contractor’s yard.

An Epsom Council spokesman said the developer provided "insufficient evidence" that the stables could not go back into horse racing if there was enough investment.

In addition, it was deemed to be inappropriate development in the greenbelt and the layout was not in keeping with the character of the area.

He said: "The developer has requested a meeting that will take place in the next couple of weeks."

John Escott, of Robinson Escott Planning, said the applicants are considering their options, one of which is to appeal. Mr Escott said: "My clients were very surprised to receive the refusal because the site is already developed with a range of buildings on it and greenbelt policy allows the redevelopment of such sites.

"We had produced a report from local experts that is quite clear as to the future of racehorse training and the fact Priam Lodge is unsuitable to the modern needs of the racehorse training industry.

An estate agent’s report submitted within the planning application said: "Realistically, there is very little or no chance of Priam Lodge ever returning to its use as a racehorse training stables."

But Caroline Baldock, who has previously fought to save training yard Downs House and Durdans Stables, insisted there was a demand for stables and welcomed the refusal of planning permission.

Ms Baldock said: "We are very pleased but my concerns are this is not going to prevent the existing buildings being demolished. It’s very worrying because the buildings themselves are not listed.

"We should not be getting rid of riding stables when they can be filled. There are people looking to keep horses in and around Epsom Downs because of its uniqueness."

The council decision, dated June 3, said: "The proposals would significantly encroach on existing open countryside and harm the function and open character of the greenbelt.

"There is no need on housing supply grounds to justify the number of residential units proposed in this development."

Monica Freeman, of Beech Road, Epsom, submitted one of 43 objections to the plans received by Epsom Council.

Mrs Freeman said: "These stables once housed the Prince of Wales’ own racehorse and the three feathers were over one of the outbuildings.

"In historical terms these stables should stay even if not for equine purposes."