Developers who had planned to build more than 40 homes on protected sports land in East Molesey said councillors have "lost the opportunity" to make the land public after they rejected the application.

Plans for 42 homes, garages, a mini-soccer pitch, outdoor gym and children's play area were put forward by applicants Langham Homes on the site of the Pavilion Club in Hurst Lane.

Half of the homes were earmarked to be affordable, with six of the properties being three-bedroom houses for rent.

The application had received 150 letters of objection when it came before the north area planning sub-committee on Monday evening, with four letters in support.

But minutes of the meeting of the sub-committee said the development would result in the loss of open space.

The sub-committee said: "The proposed development would result in the loss of open space that is not considered to meet any of the policy exceptions under para.74 of the National Planning Policy Framework and in particular the loss would not be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location.

"The loss would not preserve or enhance the character and amenity of the street scene and the local area."

The sub-committee also said the proposal was contrary to several policies of the Core Strategy 2011, Development Management Plan 2015 and the National Planning Policy Framework 2012.

Tony Pidgley, director of Langham Homes, said: "Naturally, we’re very disappointed. We have spent many months engaging with the community and the feedback gathered from residents over the course of three public exhibitions really helped us shape the final scheme.

"We feel that our proposals could deliver real benefit for the community, striking a balance between much needed new homes and opening up the land with a range of facilities to the public.

"Our plans could have made a substantial difference to that. 21 families could have been looking forward to a new home, instead of which they will continue to wait.

"We were also ready to gift a third of the site to the community, in response to feedback we received. The land is currently privately owned, and does not provide any access to the general public.

"It is ancillary to the sports club, who no longer require this space for recreational use. The councillors and the public have lost the opportunity to secure this land which could have been made public if planning had been granted."

But Mr Pidgley said more than an acre of public space would have been "gifted to the local community" through the project.

He also stressed that there is "no legal covenant on the land", referring to a historic section 106 covenant which states the land may not be used for anything other than recreational purposes, which can be superseded if it no longer performs a “useful planning purpose”.

The covenant has prevented developers from building on the sports land in previous years.

In 2010, inspectors rejected an appeal by Bloor Homes, citing a failure to respect the local character of the area, the setting of St Paul’s Church and adequately mitigating the loss of recreational land.

Elmbridge council officers agreed that the land was no longer “useful”, explaining that the land had been fenced off from public use for at least six years.