Plans for construction of an indoor swimming pool and 62- bedroom extension at the 18th Century Grade II-listed Stocks Hotel near Aldbury hit the buffers in London's high court.
Judge Michael Rich QC dismissed the hotel owners' appeal against an environment ministry inspector's decision in January this year, upholding Dacorum BC's refusal of planning permission for the ambitious scheme.
Dacorum BC had in 1989 granted planning consent for a near-identical scheme, subject to numerous conditions, said the judge.
The ministry planning inspector who considered the case at a public inquiry said there was 'no objection in principle' to the development and that the council's planning committee seemed to have decided against it 'on a largely intuitive basis'.
But he nevertheless dismissed the hotel owners' appeal, saying that the planning application had been 'inadequately supported by architectural and landscape detail'.
Judge Rich said he could find no legal flaw in the inspector's decision which he upheld.
'The inspector's decision on these matters of detail was a decision on matters of detail, and as a matter of planning judgement entitled him to dismiss the appeal.
'He made at the same time a judgement on a matter of principle and he has concluded that there are no objections to the development in principle.
'I hope my observations that that is true may encourage the preparation of an acceptable scheme.'