A COUPLE who have lovingly restored a country hall to its former glory are delighted their application for a premises licence has been approved by councillors.

Today (Tuesday, January 7), Durham County Council’s statutory licensing sub-committee gave John and Shona Wilkes the green light to serve alcohol at Lartington Hall, near Barnard Castle, from 11am to midnight, Monday to Sunday.

The decision will allow the couple to continue hosting weddings and other exclusive events at the grade II* listed building.

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However, the decision was not welcomed by everyone attending the meeting at County Hall in Durham - with one Lartington resident indicating he may appeal against it.

The licence permits the hosting of live music indoors, Monday to Sunday, from noon to midnight; live acoustic music outdoors, Monday to Sunday, from noon to 6pm; the playing of recorded music indoors, Monday to Sunday, from 9am to1am; the performance of dancing, from Monday to Sunday, from noon to midnight, indoors, but noon to 6pm, outdoors; and serve late night refreshments, indoors, Monday to Sunday, from 11pm to midnight.

The committee heard how the licensing department had received three letters of support from people living nearby, along with four letters of objection.

Paul Foster-Jones, who lives 360 metres from the hall, expressed concerns about noise and light pollution caused by guests leaving late at night.

Fears were also voiced that outdoor music could disturb the tranquility of the rural setting.

“In situations like this friends and neighbours end up taking sides,” said Mr Forster-Jones. “This licensing application has caused battle lines within the community.”

Mrs Wilkes told the committee that of the 25 events held under a temporary license, only one complaint had been received about an amplified singer in the gardens.

She said, as a result of that, the couple now only intend to stage acoustic outdoor performances in a more secluded location.

Mature trees will also be planted to shield neighbouring properties from traffic noise and headlamps.

Mr and Mrs Wilkes bought Lartington Hall in 2010 and completed the first phase of its refurbished last year at a cost of between £800,000 and £1m.

The couple hopes the income from events will help to cover annual maintenance costs of around £150,000, as well as fund the restoration of the hall’s chapel and servants’ quarters.

Mrs Wilkes said: “We have taken everyone’s views into consideration along the way and are thrilled and relieved by the decision.

“We have worked very hard with licensing and all the responsible bodies for over a year now and it is wonderful to get the outcome we wanted.”