THE poor and deteriorating relations between villagers and the North-East’s first and only two Michelin star restaurant have been laid bare as the celebrated venue seeks to improve its offer for guests.

While The Raby Hunt, in Summerhouse, near Darlington, has received a wealth of glowing reviews since the Close family bought it in 2009, it has left some residents of the village with a population of about 140 with a lasting bad taste.

Numerous villagers have claimed chef-patron James Close’s latest plan – to combine the inn with the adjoining cottage, to provide extra guest bedrooms, a temperature controlled wine storage room, and improved facilities – would aggravate the misery the popular venue is already causing them. 

In a chain of objection letters to Darlington Borough Council, residents said more overnight guests would increase disruption to the village already suffering from late-night noise, inconsiderate delivery drivers  and parking issues.  

One resident stated: “The relationship between the village and the restaurant has broken down and granting this planning would only reduce relations further. The police have been involved in the past.”

Justin and Tiffany Fear said the car parking issues caused by high volumes of  visitors to the restaurant had left them feeling like “we are prisoners in our own house that daren’t go out”.

Barbara Braithwaite said the owners and staff treated Summerhouse “with contempt”.

She said: “Unfortunately, the business does not bring anything positive to the village. The owners and staff show no interest in the village and have no interaction with residents.”

A spokesman for The Raby Hunt said the plan did not seek to increase the number of covers at the restaurant, it was “important to help sustain the business”, which would in turn ensure the longevity of the 19th century grade II listed building.

A letter from the restaurant to the council rebutting residents’ claims, states: “The applicant and business owners are very aware and sympathetic to their surroundings and neighbours.”

It also emphasised the restaurant was operating within the constraints of its licence.

Planning officers have recommended the proposal for approval by councillors later this week, stating it would cause “a negligible increase in customers visiting the premises”, and the impact on residents and road issues was “certainly not sufficient to warrant a refusal”.