Controversial plans to remove seating from one of the most distinguished buildings in Pembrokeshire finally got the go-ahead last week.

The application by developer Nick Heywood to remove semi-circular benches from the courtroom at Shire Hall and infill the floor-well, was approved by county council planning officers subject to conditions.

A previous application to remove all court furniture was withdrawn earlier this year after objections.

But historian Mark Muller said the council had ‘failed to protect’ the grade II listed building, which was built in 1835-7 to the design of William Owen, of Haverfordwest, and was aiding the ‘eradication’ of Pembrokeshire’s heritage.

He said: “With the destruction of the courtroom will vanish the remarkable venue that was the scene of one of the trials of the Rebecca Rioters.”

He said while St Clears and other areas were securing finance to preserve their history, the council “chooses to destroy what lies within their responsibility”.

Mr Heywood proposed that the courtroom be used for functions, including wedding receptions and conferences, without compromising its character.

He said: “The proposals had been subject to extensive consultation locally and nationally. These proposals are a minor change to an interior layout that we appreciate has enjoyed a period of history, but which in itself is not original and was a result of an earlier alteration.

“The scheme proposed is with the best of intentions to secure the future of the building and broaden the potential for use and assist in the social and economic regeneration of the town.”

Civic Society chairman Robin Sheldrake said that the Shire Hall in its entirety should have been retained in public ownership.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised, by the turn of events,” he added.