PLANS to convert part of a village pub into a home are not part of a ‘Trojan Horse’ plan to close the business, bosses have insisted.

Owners of the Fernaville’s Rest pub, in Whorlton, near Barnard Castle, submitted proposals to convert a former dining area and part of the car park into ‘residential accommodation’.

And despite opposition to the scheme, it has been given the green light by Durham County Council’s planning chiefs.

“Suggestions by objectors that this is a ‘Trojan Horse’ or aimed at taking away the pub or damaging its viability and that is not the case,” said Ivan Carter-Becker, the applicant.

“The point of this is to try and turn around a pub which has been a serial failure over the last ten years and which has had four different tenants – no one has made a success of it.

“The point is to take away the failing aspect and reduce costs, allow investment and bring something to market which will be tenantable in the long term.”

Mr Carter-Becker was speaking at Thursday’s meeting of the council’s Area Planning Committee for the south and west of the county.

Geo A Carter, his family firm, has owned the pub, previously known as The Bridge Inn, since 1954.

Barnard Castle county councillor James Rowlandson, who is not a member of the panel, blamed the pub’s recent struggles on the closure of the nearby Whorlton Bridge due to a ‘safety defect’ last year.

And this was backed by his fellow Councillor George Richardson, who added: “Many times we’re asked to let a village grow or let it die and I feel this would be the first step to letting [Whorlton] die. A big influence has been the closure of Whorlton Bridge.

“The applicant said [the pub] has been a serial failure, bit it’s not that long ago it could be tough to get in for a meal, such was its reputation.”

The applicant insisted the plans were necessary as the pub, which is not currently trading, is not a viable business in its current form, an argument rejected by Whorlton and Westwick Parish Council and Whorlton Village Community Association.

But the planning committee agreed with the recommendation of planning officers to approve the plans, with all bar Cllr Richardson voting in favour.