It is Southampton's oldest pub and one of its most historic buildings.

But the future of the Red Lion has been plunged into fresh doubt after plans to safeguard the decaying building by adding eight guest rooms were rejected behind closed doors by council planners.

Landlord Tony Morris, 52, said he was left bemused after the bed and breakfast scheme, which would have helped raise funds for vital roof repairs, were turned down.

The High Street pub, which dates back to 1148, was put on an English Heritage list of endangered buildings three years ago due its poor state of repair.

But after encouragement from council heritage officers to put in plans for a rear firstfloor extension and a new third-storey to house eight bedrooms, Mr Morris said he has been left fearing for the future of the building – and his livelihood.

He warned the council thatdeclining trade, rising costs and maintenance could make his business “unviable”.

Mr Morris said: “It was their idea in the first place. Now they’ve knocked me back. It was a way to try to generate extra revenue to keep the building up.

“It was vital to our long term business. The building is not going survive forever. But the business can’t support the high maintenance and upkeep as well as big jobs that need to be done.”

Mr Morris said he could not afford to restore the roof, which could cost more than £100,000, and has been unable to get any grant funding as he is a business.

The building also needs rewiring and plastering, he said. The high repair costs also have put off any potential buyers to rescue the pub.

Mr Morris said he would be meeting with his architects and the council to discuss a way forward after the plans were refused under delegated powers.

P l a n n e r s claimed the drawings weren’t detailed enough.

Cabinet member for environment and transport Councillor Asa Thorpe said: “I would want officers to work with the owners of the Red Lion pub to discuss how an application that would be supported would be progressed.

“Councillors of all parties should have the opportunity to examine the evidence placed before this issue.”

The pub is also recognised by the council as a “place of public interest” and visited by foreigners as if it were a museum.