An eight to five vote saw retrospective permission for the plush wooden outbuilding granted in Fox Covert Close, in Wynyard, but not before upset neighbours and councillors shared privacy worries.
Householder Brian Edwards told the panel how he’d been made redundant during lockdown and invested in a space his family could use all year round in all weathers.
The father-of-one moved to Wynyard two years ago and decided to make lifestyle changes during covid restrictions to lose some weight.
Mr Edwards said: “I decided providing a gym in my back garden would help as I was struggling to find time to keep fit as part of my daily routine along with childcare and working full time.
"It’s helped massively to promote good mental health in my immediate family.”
The outbuilding includes a raised decked area as well as a hot tub, gym, play area, bar and seating area.
Members heard how a planning enforcement investigation found the timber cabin needed planning permission due to its use and its height.
He added: “I’ve installed a mini-fridge for some beer and installed a dartboard. It’s not a full bar in the sense of the word.
“I use it as a place to relax at the weekend and, as we do not have immediate childcare in the area, we see it as a home away from home.
"It’s fair to say I’m in my mid-40s – and my socialising days are well and truly behind me..”
Concerned neighbours Michael and Nicola Illingworth feared their privacy would be obliterated.
Mr Illingworth said: “The structure is oversized and brings shade to my garden and the sunlight once enjoyed on a morning.”
Former Thornaby mayor Cllr Steve Walmsley said: “Just looking at the pictures, you can see it does dominate the area and there is a lot of privacy there – there is no argument about that.
“This is a mini Bannatyne’s. A lot of people have built these kinds of things during covid and have turned them into bars and things.
After more than half an hour of debate, the cabin was approved.
Mr Illingworth called the decision “an absolute disgrace” before leaving the Stockton Council meeting.