A ROW has broken out over the future of an edge-of-town shopping centre, with neighbours claiming a new restaurant and bar would turn the area into a ‘mini Las Vegas’.

The Arnison Centre, at Pity Me, near Durham, is undergoing a multi-million pound expansion, which involves the construction of three new units, plus Pets at Home moving into the former Comet store and its previous premises being split into smaller shops.

Since it opened 25 years ago, the complex has mostly comprised large retail stores.

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But now, in addition to the existing McDonalds, there are plans to open a Frankie and Benny’s Italian-American restaurant and bar, which would sell alcohol until midnight and stay open until 12.30am seven days-a-week.

The proposals have angered residents of Hag House, an exclusive estate across Rotary Way, including county councillor Nigel Martin and former MP Gerry Steinberg.

Councillor Martin predicted Hag House’s eight families would suffer excessive noise, late-night disturbance, more ‘boy racers’ and drink driving.

He said no music should be heard outdoors and alcohol sales should stop at 8pm.

But the strongest criticism came from John and Allison Heron, who said the development would set a dangerous precedent for the Arnison Centre and turn it into a “mini Las Vegas”.

“I would like to suggest that Franky (sic) and Benny set up their night club in one of the vacant premises in North Road,” they said.

The matter is due to be settled by a Durham County Council licensing committee meeting at County Hall at 10am on Tuesday (July 15).

The Restaurant Group (UK), the firm behind the plans, said there would be a waiter/waitress service through the restaurant “affording control and supervision”, substantial food would be served throughout licensed hours and CCTV would be installed and footage made available to the council on request.

Further, staff would ask anyone who looks under 21 for proof of ID before selling them alcohol and receive special training.

Meanwhile, Pets at Home will re-open in the Murcia Retail Park section of the Arnison Centre on Friday, July 18.

The new 10,000ft store will create three new jobs and include a grooming room for pets.

A party will be held across July 19 and July 20 to mark opening weekend, with free face painting for children from 10am to 4pm and discounts.