A housing association boss was given a pay-off of more than £200,000 despite an attempt to block the handout.

Annual accounts of the Downland Housing Group, based in Haywards Heath and Chichester, show the former managing director, Bob Herbert, was awarded £233,291 on his early retirement last March on top of his £117,000 salary.

The sum included £82,031 as compensation for loss of office, plus a pension enhancement of £151,260.

New management at the organisation, which is now part of the Downland Affinity Group and runs housing association schemes throughout West Sussex, tried to stop the payment.

However, the group was advised by lawyers and housing corporation officials that withholding the money would be in breach of 58-year-old Mr Herbert's contract.

In 2001 Downland's board agreed to a revised contract for Mr Herbert as a way of encouraging him to continue in the post while the association was in merger negotiations.

At that stage Downland Affinity Group was not involved.

The merger broke down but Mr Herbert's new contract still stood, including a clause to allow him to draw his pension early.