Paul Morgan has hit out after councillors ordered him to take down lights at the Hampshire Arms in Crondall — the Catering Pub of the Year.

But he has vowed to fight the order and said: “The lights in the planters are only 40 watt bulbs. As they are obscured by the plants, you would have to be looking down at the ground to notice they are there.

“If people are so petty minded that they have to waste council tax payers money and councillors time on such a trivial matter, they want to get a life instead of poking their nose in other people’s business,” said Mr Morgan, who has a regular cooking feature on BBC Southern Counties Radio.

“I have taken what was a ham, egg and chips pub and transformed it into one of the top pubs in England.

“If they had the guts to put themselves on the line by owning their own business then they would understand how I feel. It upsets me when petty things like this come up.”

Hart’s development control (enforcement) sub-committee was told the council received a complaint about the external lighting and signs at the pub in Pankridge Street, Crondall, last summer.

An enforcement officer visited the pub — which is also in the running for the Greene King Pub of the Year and the Morning Advertiser Pub of the Year — to see if there had been a breach in planning control.

Hart says it wrote to Mr Morgan on August 12 asking him to apply for a retrospective planning application but the letter never arrived.

Another letter was sent on October 21 asking for an application by November 28.

Unable to make the deadline due to illness, Mr Morgan’s wife Gill asked for more time.

Hart set a December 20 deadline but says no application has been submitted.

Stephen Gorys, chairman of the enforcement sub-committee, said: “They will be asked to take off the lights on the signs and out of the planters and that will satisfy the committee on this issue. If they choose not to then further action will be taken.

“It’s a succesful local pub that does very good food and where possible we always like to support local business without being too regulatory.

“We must also ensure that the public’s views are fairly administered.”

But defiant Mr Morgan, who has had a run-in with celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott about the standard of British pub food, told the Mail: “At this moment my lights stay where they are so let the council take further action. I will fight it all the way.

“I have just received a call from Hart Council thanking me for helping to raise £2,500 at a recent charity event.

“I offered to cook a meal at someone’s house and gave a free meal for two at the Hampshire Arms to raise money for a deserving charity.

“It seems ironic that I help the council out in this way and then they treat me like this.

“We do a lot of charity work raising money for breast cancer care and children alike and it upsets me that people do not realise what good work we do here.”

ENFORCEMENT sub-committee councillors also backed a report calling for tough new procedures when drawing up legal papers after officers made errors in the case of entrance gates built in the countryside without permission.

The gates were built illegally last summer at Peaked Croft Farm in Chalky Lane, Dogmersfield.

But when Hart finally issued a planning contravention notice, it was undated giving it no legal effect.

“Officers have learnt from their mistakes in this case and we will make sure they do not happen again,” said Cllr Gorys.