An environmental notice has been served on the owner of the Grapes Hotel ­— just as Aspatria councillors decide they can live with the renovations.

The council, prompted by outcry from residents, appealed to Allerdale Council about the state of the work on the exterior of the Grapes, a sandstone building in the centre of the town.

There was concern about ugly cladding, allegedly unsafe working practices and the seeming ruination of a building that had once been an iconic part of the town.

Allerdale Council, in a letter of apology to Aspatria, acknowledged that some planning conditions had not been followed and said action had been slow because of staff shortages in the council’s planning department because of Covid.

Aspatria Town Council was told this week that a penalty notice had been issued.

At that stage, the fiercest critic of the work, Cllr Alan Reay, did a complete U-turn, admitting that, as work progressed, “it does not look half as bad as I thought. It is looking quite good.”

Acting mayor Alan Maxwell agreed.

All councillors admitted some relief that the finished product would be better than they thought, but were still angry that the town council had been put in a position where it could do nothing about it, anyway.

Cllr Kevin Foy said Allerdale Council had let down the town and left Aspatria Council in a position where it was powerless to do anything.

He agreed that it was now too late to reverse the work.

Allerdale’s builder control manager, Simon Sharpe, said last month that while he was sorry for the delay, the works did not pose a serious threat to health and safety so, although a high priority, the case was not urgent.

“A delay is unfortunate and I apologise to the council for this, but it doesn’t actually affect the process and outcomes.”

The hotel has stood empty since 2018.

In March last year Allerdale planners approved plans were approved to turn the building into six dwellings.