THE differing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on residents and businesses has been brought into sharp relief as a plan to provide a safe and weather-proof environment at a community pub was approved.

Simon and Rachel Leadbetter, who run The Mowden, off Staindrop Road, Darlington, have received the go-ahead to build a 16m by 13m wooden canopy outside the premises, despite concerns that people’s homes in Barnes Road and Boundary View were just yards away.

Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee heard the food-focused business had only recently reopened following lockdown and like many businesses, was finding it “very difficult to operate in a profitable way”. Councillors were told that social distancing rules meant the capacity for the internal areas had decreased and outdoor areas, which are deemed to be safer, had become critical to the ongoing viability of the business. The meeting heard the new canopy would cover up to eight tables to allow customers to dine outdoors while adhering to social distancing.

The pub’s outdoor seating area has previously been used for outdoor drinking and it was highlighted the proposal was for a permanent canopy that would be in place for years to come. Several councillors then expressed concerns over noise nearby residents could suffer. The meeting was told some residents had claimed enabling more people to sit sheltered outside the pub would have a negative impact on their quality of life.

Councillors said the mental health of the neighbours, particularly those stuck indoors shielding during the pandemic, was an important consideration and supported calls for a two-metre high acoustic barrier to become a required part of the scheme.

However, councillors heard the objections had been outnumbered by letters of support highlighting how the business had always been considerate to neighbours and had taken steps to minimise noise. Councillor Jon Clarke questioned whether the acoustic barrier was an unwarranted expense for the pub at a particularly difficult time. He said: “Given that local businesses are struggling at the moment, especially in the hospitality area, the fact that we are imposing more costs on a business doesn’t sit well with me.”

Nevertheless, approving the scheme, the majority of councillors agreed the fence would help safeguard residents’ quality of life.