A SAGA over a divisive bid to build holiday pods in the countryside should now be over, after a well-known businessman admitted charges arising from fallout over the failed planning application.

George Reynolds was accused of two counts of breaching a restraining order, prohibiting contact with or social media references to councillor Heather Smith.

The Durham County Council member for Evenwood ward opposed his bid to build on a site, off the A68 near Toft Hill, and the former Darlington FC chairman subsequently went to her home and sent her two letters, in each case seeking to know why she objected to the planned development.

He was made subject of the two-year order after his conviction for harassment, at Teesside Magistrates' Court, in September 2019.

Durham Crown Court heard that after the planning application was rejected by the council, weeks later, Reynolds made two derogatory references to coun Smith on a Facebook posting, accusing her of leading a conspiracy against him, in breach of the restraining order.

He also sent letters to now former council chief executive Terry Collins and planning officer Adam Williamson, calling them corrupt and accusing them of being part of the “conspiracy”.

Reynolds was charged with two counts of harassment over those letters, plus intimidation of Mr Williamson.

He previously denied all those charges.

But after his appeal was rejected over the harassment conviction relating to coun Smith, on Monday, Reynolds yesterday changed his pleas and admitted both counts of breaching the restraining order and the two new harassment charges.

A further charge of blackmail was previously dropped by the Crown, while the intimidation count was, ‘left on the file’.

Richard Bloomfield, for Reynolds, said he spent 12 days in custody, then aged 83, last year, due to the blackmail count, which he said, “should never have been brought.”

Judge Ray Singh told the now 84-year-old defendant, of Neville’s Cross, Durham, that despite his, “quite despicable behaviour”, he took account of his age and mobility issues, and passed a 12-month conditional discharge.

But he made him subject of new restraining orders, relating to coun Smith, Mr Collins and Mr Williamson, all to run, “until further order”.

He ordered the defendant to pay hearing costs totalling £670.

Reynolds thanked the judge for his “patience” and said he would, “not be out of the house” for the next year.