Late-night licence changes at an historic hotel have been heralded as a step forward for nearby residents after councillors agreed to all of a leading hospitality firm’s requests while imposing new rules designed to stop wedding guests disturbing the surrounding community.
Numerous residents of Croft on Tees, near Darlington, had raised alarm over The Apartment Group’s plans for 188-year-old Croft Hotel to extend the food, drink and entertainment services it could offer until 2am every day of the week.
When the grade II listed hotel on the banks of the River Tees was bought earlier this year by the firm, which describes itself as the region’s wedding experience market leader, it announced plans to create an event space and a chapel “like nothing else in the UK”.
Croft on Tees residents had claimed their quality of life in the rural village would be devastated and suggested the firm wanted to “operate a wedding factory on our doorstep”.
Villagers highlighted how 45 mid-week weddings had been booked for the coming year in the adjacent 12th century church, which features artefacts and carvings believed to inspired characters created by Alice In Wonderland author Lewis Carroll. The author’s father was rector of the church just a few years after the hotel opened in 1835.
A meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s licensing committee in Richmond heard Croft on Tees Parish Council said changing the hotel to a seven-day 2am venue would “create a great deal of anxiety and concern for our residents”, particularly ones living in properties in the hotel’s courtyard.
In other letters of objection to the firm’s proposed changes, residents had said it was “not reasonable for a single business to have such a large negative impact on so many local residents, at antisocial hours, simply for its own financial benefit”.
Nevertheless, members decided to grant the variation as the firm had applied, on the condition that whenever live DJ or music entertainment take place inside the premises the windows and doors must remain shut except for the purpose of entering or leaving the building.
An additional condition was added to state that the use of the outdoor areas, aside from the function room terrace, must cease from 11pm.
The meeting heard an elderly resident had called the hotel to complain about noise levels last Saturday evening only to be told the hotel was not breaching its licence.
Licensing committee member and North Richmondshire division councillor Angus Thompson said: “It was a winner from the villagers’ point of view because we got a major concession on the existing licence. As their elected representative I thought they made a very positive step forward.
“There wasn’t grounds to refuse the application as the hotel already has a licence as a venue for weddings.
“The firm’s chief executive and his solicitor went out of their way to say they want to work with the village and that they are not there to cause any unnecessary complaints.”
The Apartment Group has not responded to requests for a comment.