PROPOSALS for a family-owned garden centre to increase the serving capacity at its cafe have been approved by planners.

The Sam Turner and Sons garden centre in Piercebridge, near Darlington, will increase the serving capacity in its cafe from 50 customers to 70 after members of Darlington Borough Council’s planning applications committee gave them the go-ahead.

Planning permission for the garden centre was granted in March 2012, with a condition stating the cafe could cater for a maximum of 50 people to safeguard nearby businesses.

The latest application had attracted objections from nearby residents who said that none of the conditions have changed and raised concerns that the premises would become a “destination cafe” to the detriment to other businesses nearby in the village.

Nearby residents also said that increase in customers could lead to an increase in food smells affecting their properties.

Speaking at a meeting of the committee, Charlie Turner, whose family also own garden centres in Northallerton, Leyburn and Stokesley, strongly refuted claims it was becoming a destination cafe.

Instead he said the garden centre is simply becoming busier and, as a result, customers often have to queue for a table in the cafe at peak times.

He also said he has been working with neighbours to tackle any possible kitchen smells, and has planted 40 beech saplings to hide the business from the view of its closest neighbour.

Planning officer Dave Coates said: “It is a victim of its own success. Because it is so successful people want to visit the garden centre and there is increased demand to go and have a cup of tea or something to eat.

“It is a natural reaction for the business to make.”

Permission was granted subject to the creation of extra parking spaces.