Demolition work on Tenby's fire-ravaged Royal Gatehouse Hotel has been given the go-ahead by Pembrokeshire County Council and is expected to start within the week, the authority announced today (Friday).

The council's move follows the previous day's unanimous verdict from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority that knocking down the seafront structure is the only option because of the danger it poses both to public safety and the economy of Tenby.

The decision at the extraordinary meeting gave support to Pembrokeshire County Council to proceed with demolition under Section 78 of the 1984 Building Act.

Demoltion contractors are on standby and could move in within 'four or five days', depending on the availability of specialist machinery, the council's head of highways, Darren Thomas, told the meeting.

The entire job is expected to take around a month, but the work will be tackled with the aim of re-opening The Norton to through traffic within two to three weeks, he said.

The road - one of only two main roads into the centre of Tenby - has been closed since the Easter Sunday blaze, with a devastating impact on trade.

A petition calling for demolition, with over 400 signatures from business people in the town, was handed in at the start of the meeting.

Although the Royal Gatehouse was once one of the finest hotels in south Wales, it had become 'a rather tawdry reminder of its magnificent past', said National Park vice-chairman, Richard Howellls.

He added: "The Gatehouse is a total ruin and is severely damaging Tenby, and we have a responsibility not only to the past, but the people who live in the town. Unless something is done quickly, there is the possibility that tourism will be damaged, and it could be years before the goodwill of visitors is regained."

Councillor John Allen-Mirehouse felt that keeping the building standing 'could be a tragedy for many of the businesses in Tenby'. "Knock it down, and action this day," he urged.

National Park Authority chairman, Councillor Simon Hancock commented after the meeting: "Authority officers have been heavily involved in reviewing the situation over recent weeks regarding the Royal Gatehouse Hotel and the authority is delighted to have reached its conclusion to support demolition. There is obvious sadness, however, in the loss of such an important Grade II Listed Building which has been a part of the Tenby landscape for so long.

"We are all extremely aware of the impact of the situation on the community and economy of Tenby and we hope that there will now be a swift resolution to the situation to enable life in Tenby to return to normal as soon as possible."