A POPULAR Christchurch restaurant threatened with closure could be given a stay of execution nearly four months after Dorset County Council appeared to seal its fate.

Plans to extend Christchurch library into neighbouring Kelly's Kitchen were given the go-ahead in a split vote by the county council's planning committee in March, despite objections by Christchurch Borough Council and residents.

But now the family-run restaurant could be saved. The restaurant's solicitor, Lionel Fynn, said Dorset County Council had agreed to throw out the planning consent after it was presented with details of the legal case the couple would be proceeding with.

Mr Fynn of Bournemouth law firm Horsey Lightly Fynn said: "It hasn't happened yet but if it all goes ahead then Mr Kelly's case will have to be made afresh. Hopefully all of Christchurch will come to Mr Kelly's support."

Terry Kelly, who has run the restaurant since 1993, said: "We are very pleased and hope that when they look at this again they will submit a fresh application and not the same one.

"We want them to listen to the people of Christchurch, the borough council and the Chamber of Trade. More than 11,000 people signed our petition - which is nearly a quarter of the population of Christchurch.

"We've been left hanging since 2003 when this all started. Hopefully now we can get a conclusion."

Susan Zeiss, principal solicitor at Dorset County Council, said: "Recent planning cases in the UK courts have set new guidance on the way the legislation governing the drafting of planning notices should be followed once a decision has been reached. As a result, while the permission for Christchurch Library remains in place, due to the particular circumstances of this case officers are reviewing the permission."

And Paul Leivers, head of cultural services at the council, said: "This is an important planning application to improve the delivery of the library service for people in Christchurch and to avoid many months of delay with court proceedings and cost, we would be willing to resubmit the application if necessary."