Restaurateur Clinton Pugh revealed how he has spent “a fortune” trying to build new homes on the site of one of Oxford’s best known restaurants.

The Lemon Tree in Woodstock Road closed after five years of business in August, but for the past two years owner Mr Pugh has been applying for planning permission to demolish the restaurant and build homes in its place.

Planning applications have been refused three times by the city council’s north area committee and councillors will consider a fourth application tomorrow. Planning officers have recommended the scheme — two five-bedroom and two four-bedroom homes — should be refused, due to the “size, width, height and bulk” of the building nearest to Woodstock Road.

But Mr Pugh, who also runs the Cafe Coco restaurant in Cowley Road and a new Cafe Coco opening in Frideswide Square, hopes councillors will approve his latest plan.

He said: “So far it has cost me a fortune in architects’ consultancy fees — about £60,000 — and each time you submit new drawings it costs about £4,000.

“I am still paying £26,000 a year business rate on this site and businesses have to pay for their own rubbish to be taken away.

“I am hoping councillors will see the merits of this design and the efforts we have gone through to get to this point.

“The Lemon Tree was renowned for being the best restaurant in Oxford, but unfortunately it was no longer working.

“When the council changed the parking policy in South Parade it meant my customers had fewer spaces to park.

“Over the past 10 years, we have seen the influx of large chains in Oxford and there are twice as many restaurants as there used to be — it’s much more competitive.”

One of the previous schemes Mr Pugh submitted to the committee featured eight two-bedroom flats and a four-bedroom townhouse.

Planners have received six letters of objections to the latest application.

Oxford Civic Society has also written to the committee to say: “The houses are excessively large and tall, overpowering and out of scale with neighbours and too crowded.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Jean Fooks said: “The last application was refused by a majority vote and we need to consider if the applicant has taken into account the reasons for refusal.”

The Lemon Tree, a former pub, first opened in 1995 and quickly became one of the city’s most popular restaurants.

In 2000, it was taken over and became La Gousse d’Ail. In 2003, Mr Pugh bought back the restaurant and reopened it as The Lemon Tree.