A SCHEME to expand one of the country’s most highly rated inns has been put on ice after councillors heard the business was leaving its neighbours facing a headache.

James Close, chef-patron of the two Michelin star Raby Hunt, at Summerhouse, near Darlington, will have to wait a further month for a decision on his plan to create extra guest bedrooms, a wine storage room and other facilities, to enable councillors to inspect the parking situation in the village.

While Mr Close says he is “very aware and sympathetic” to his neighbours, residents have accused him of treating them with contempt, claiming the restaurant’s staff combined with a stream of diners has left them feeling like prisoners in their homes due to parking issues.

In a bid to alleviate parking problems, residents invited the restaurant to use eight spaces in the village hall car park for £50 a week, but the offer was rejected.

A meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee heard there was no dispute over whether residents faced nuisance and disturbance caused by the restaurant, particularly over parking and vehicle movements.

The authority’s head of planning, David Coates, said the scheme would not increase the restaurant’s covers and that highways bosses reported “robust measures to control parking” had already been introduced in the village. Members were told the key question councillors were facing was whether the scheme would aggravate the traffic and parking issues.

Mr Coates said: “One could argue the inn is a victim of its own success. It was a traditional pub. If it had been a particularly successful pub a similar amount of nuisance and disturbance could be attracted to its use.”

Craig Kipling, speaking for the restaurant, told members the scheme had the potential to lessen parking problems as guest rooms had only ever been sold as part of a fine dining package.

Councillor Gerald Lee said while “we are delighted and proud of the success of Mr Close and his restaurant”, he had received numerous complaints over parking and access issues.

He said at times, the inconsiderate parking of the restaurant’s guests had made it impossible to access their own front doors, leading to the police being called.

Cllr Lee said: “The question I would ask the restaurant is what are you prepared to do to try and improve the parking for those residents?”

Deferring a decision on the plan, committee chairman Councillor Paul Baldwin said it was necessary for councillors to visit the site to appraise the parking situation.