POLICE have joined council leaders in calling for the owners of a celebrated restaurant and its neighbours to settle a bitter dispute over staff and customers parking.

Durham Constabulary has urged two Michelin star-rated The Raby Hunt and residents of Summerhouse, near Darlington, to end the row after being repeatedly called to the hamlet unnecessarily.

The force issued the statement two weeks after the restaurant, which has been run by the Close family since 2009, was granted permission by Darlington Borough Council to expand its guest accommodation despite residents’ fears it would aggravate parking issues.

Residents claim the success of the restaurant, rated higher than any other in the North-East and Yorkshire region, has led to the village becoming overwhelmed with cars, leading them to struggle to access their properties.

Residents said tensions had ramped up in recent weeks and claimed incidents included police being called after photographs were taken of a car parked on a shared drive.

One resident, former headmaster Basil Stonehouse, said: “The situation is being exacerbated. What a waste of police time and taxpayers’ money.”

Mr Stonehouse claimed the restaurant had not responded to villagers after being handed a contract to allow staff and customer parking at the village hall for £50 a week.

The restaurant’s owners have not responded to requests for a comment, but Summerhouse councillor Gerald Lee said both parties needed to meet face-to-face and work together to end the disharmony, but there would be “no absolute solution”.

In a letter to residents he said: “You are entitled to ask for money from Raby Hunt for them to use the village hall car park and Mr Close is entitled not to accept your offer and should he choose this option the problem continues and bad feeling continues – the stalemate will continue.”

Inspector Chris Knox, from Darlington Neighbourhood Police Team, said: “This is a community issue which needs to be resolved between the local residents and the Raby Hunt. We have been called a number of times in relation to restaurant customers parking in the village, but on nearly all occasions, no parking offences have been committed.”