The owner of holiday lets in County Durham has been fined and ordered to close the business after it was found to be operating during coronavirus restrictions.
Durham County Council applied for the closure of West Farm Holiday Lets, in Cold Hesledon, Seaham, after investigations showed people had been allowed to book and stay at holiday lodges during national lockdown and tier restrictions.
Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court heard the council’s community protection team had received several complaints that the business’s owner, Tracey Robinson, of West Farm, Cold Hesledon, was allowing people to book and stay at the lodges during the national lockdown.
After investigating these complaints, the council served a Prohibition Notice on Robinson in May 2020, ordering the business to stop operating immediately.
The council continued to receive complaints that the holiday lets were still operating during further coronavirus restrictions and, on 30 December 2020, officers from Durham Constabulary attended the site.
Police officers found two lodges occupied by members of the public who said they were on a mini break, and a second Prohibition Notice was issued to Robinson on 8 January 2021.
Another visit was made by police on 20 February 2021 when officers spoke to three women who confirmed they had paid to stay in the lodges.
Following these visits, and after receiving further evidence that people were staying at the lodges when restrictions were in place, a fixed penalty notice of £1,000 was issued to Robinson to be paid by 26 March 2021.
At Thursday’s hearing, magistrates issued a Closure Order to Robinson, 49, forcing the premises to close until 17 May 2021. Robinson was also ordered to pay legal costs of £1,673.
Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s public protection manager, said: “Over the last year we have investigated complaints into West Farm Holiday Lets and found a number of incidences where those who were not entitled to were allowed to book and stay despite being prohibited by national lockdown or tier restrictions.
“We are pleased that the vast majority of the businesses in Durham have complied with the legislation and we would thank them for that. However, this closure order demonstrates that action will be taken against those who operate in breach of coronavirus regulations and ignore the safety of members of the public.”
Joanne Malkin, Seaham Neighbourhood Inspector for Durham Constabulary, said: “Tracey Robinson continued to operate her business throughout lockdown, breaching Covid regulations.
“In response to community concerns, officers attended the premises and made efforts to encourage her to change her behaviour. This was ignored.
“As a result, officers issued penalty notices in line with government legislation and supported our partners at Durham County Council in applying for a closure notice.
“Coronavirus remains a deadly disease and I would like to reassure our communities that we take issues like this seriously to keep the public safe.
“The majority of businesses made tremendous sacrifices to abide by the rules and next month will return to trading. Following the sanctions imposed, West Farm Holiday Lets will continue to be closed.”