HOT tubs have been banned from plans for holiday "pods" near a castle hotel because of concerns over noise from sloshed guests.

The hotel was given permission to build the pods on the site of a former falconry centre, despite objections from a local businessman who branded it an "ill-advised development".

However the unusual hot tub condition was added in at a meeting of Darlington Borough Council's planning committee.

Cllr Steven Tait said: "I'm conscious that these sort of pods or glamping pods are very popular, usually with young people.

"If there's a hot tub outside it's going to be noisy, as people get drunk in them, because I have.

"If the hot tubs were there, I would expect more noise from them."

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No hot tubs were mentioned in Walworth Castle Hotel's planning application to put the six pods on the Grade I listed castle's grounds.

But Cllr Tait asked if there were any plans for hot tubs, and suggested a specific condition for them not to be included in detailed plans.

Planning development manager David Coates said the hotel previously applied to build a larger "chalet-type" development.

This was not deemed acceptable, with objections from Historic England and the council's conservation officer.

After negotiations the plans were changed to smaller "pods" with improved landscaping, and this time officers recommended approval.

"It is a fairly simplified, light-touch form of accommodation," said Mr Coates.

"It's actually associated with an existing hotel facility. This is seen as an adjunct to it, an alternative form of accommodation.

"These are sufficiently tucked away and remote from the Grade I listed building... to minimise the impact.

"We think this is satisfactory.

"We have concluded that the heritage asset has been protected to an acceptable level, therefore we can justifiably grant planning permission."

Three objections were received by the council, primarily on noise and light pollution, disturbance and overlooking.

"It would be impossible to say there would be noise. There is a level of risk," added Mr Coates.

"However there will be a strict management programme from the owners to ensure that any noise is kept to an absolute minimum."

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Cllr Gerald Lee said: "The hotel has been going for many many years.

"Everything that they do over the years has been done very very well. Nothing is done cheaply.

"I've had no complaints about anti-social behaviour, about any crime. There's been no drunkenness.

"I'm more than confident that whatever comes there will match the quality of the hotel.

"If there is noise, the owner of the hotel will certainly put that to bed.

"This hotel, like all hotels, has had two difficult years with Covid and this is yet another way I would suggest to increase their income and I have no problem with that."

However objector Philip Eade argued the plans might stop people coming to his holiday let business at North Farm, which he described as a "beacon" which could be "snuffed out".

He said: "I think the money being spent on these pods is good money after bad.

"This really is a sign of desperation.

"We have a business which we've invested a hell of a lot of money in.

"Whatever benefits these pods give economically to the hotel's business is going to be outweighed by the detrimental effect it has on our business.

"It's a huge impact on our outlook. It's the main view from the house.

"We've had people from all over the world coming to us. Are they going to come when they're basically looking at a caravan site? No they won't.

"They're Mr Big, the castle in the village, and I'm here to stand up for the shy people.

"Many more people come to our building than will come to these pods."

Cllr Lee told Mr Eade: "I strongly feel that this shouldn't affect your business at all."

Mr Coates said "nobody has the right to a view" and this was not a reason to refuse planning permission.

Councillors voted to approve the plan with conditions.

One of these is that precise details of the pods, to be approved in writing, are not to include "external paraphernalia including hot tubs".