A developer has suffered another setback in his bid to knock down a historic Turkish bath house to make way for a block of flats.

Plans to demolish the Victorian Medina House and replace it with an eight-storey residential tower have been turned down by Brighton and Hove City Council planning officers.

The proposed block of flats for the site in Kings Esplanade in Hove was described as “excessively out of scale” and “visually overbearing”.

Opponents to the designs are now calling on the council to carry out a compulsory purchase order to preserve the site, although doubts have been raised over whether the finances exist for such a move.

The site has remained empty for the past 15 years despite land owner Sirus Taghan commissioning architects to draw up a series of new building designs for the site, all of which have been rejected.

The latest proposals, submitted in October, attracted fewer than five objections and so the decision was reached not by a planning committee of elected councillors but by one council official.

To try to break the impasse over the site, Brighton and Hove City Council drew up a development brief last year following consultation with the public, outlining what it would like to see happen to the site. The brief recommended that the original bath house building, which opened in 1894, would be retained, although Mr Taghan claimed it would not be viable or affordable.

In the reasoning for the application’s rejection, the planning officer stated that Mr Taghan had failed to demonstrate that the building was beyond economic repair and that there are no viable alternative uses for the building.

Valerie Paynter, of conservation group Save Hove, said compulsory purchase had to be “the next move”.

She said: “It’s something I felt was important more than 18 months ago when we were petitioning for a Medina House planning brief.

“Enough is enough. It’s the only way forward.

“There are people in the wings who are willing to buy it but he rebuffs them. What’s not possible is building something that’s higher than there is now.”