A LEISURE boss is facing opposition over a seafront family entertainment centre from fellow fairground tenants – and some of his own family.
At least 17 ride operators, stall holders and caterers have voiced their opposition to the proposed development at Ocean Beach Pleasure Park in South Shields.
As revealed by the Gazette, Michael Sheeran, owner of M & J Sheeran Amusements, wants to build a 2m indoor facility to attract more visitors in bad weather.
It will include a 4D cinema, go-kart track, climbing wall, pool hall and places to eat.
But opponents, including Mr Sheeran's brother and sister-in-law, say it is not offering anything new.
And they have warned that smaller businesses - some of which have been in families for generations - could fold due to extra competition.
Sally Sheeran, who owns Oasis Amusements with husband Joseph, said: "Mr Sheeran does not speak for the whole of Ocean Beach Pleasure Park when he professes this is going to be great for the seafront.
"Many operators on the fairground are genuinely concerned this could signal economic disaster for some businesses.
"It is going to be the end of the amusement park as it is now."
Kenneth Reader, managing director of KW Reader & Sons, which owns the Dunes, said: "It is vitally important any new developments to this area offer something new for visitors.
"More of the same will simply discourage return visits and reduce visitor numbers."
The suggested location of the two-storey centre, at the main entrance to the park in Sea Road, has also caused concern.
Ride operator Francis Newsome said: "It is of such a size as to block practically any view of the park and its amenities from the passer-by.
"This has proven to be detrimental to other seaside amusement parks in Whitley Bay, Redcar, Crimdon Dene and Seaton Carew."
But not all fairground tenants are against the plans.
Mr Sheeran's two other brothers, twins Philip and Maxwell, who both have rides at the park, back the new development.
Philip, 26, said: "We definitely need an indoor facility. The season is short as it is and bad weather makes it even shorter.
"People have their own views and are looking out for their own interests, but we are 100 per cent behind Michael. It will improve the whole area on the front."
Between Maxwell, Philip and Michael, they run 20 of the 40-odd rides and over the next few years are set to invest a further 500,000.
Maxwell added: "An indoor facility would bring more people in which would benefit everyone. We need to work together for the good of the whole of the borough."
A planning application for the development, set to create 60 jobs, was submitted in January, which has attracted letters of objection.
It was withdrawn in March, but is due to be resubmitted within weeks.
Mr Sheeran said: "I can understand people don't like change, but the way the weather is, we feel it is getting that balance between indoor and outdoor.
"We are trying to pick existing attractions because we know they are good attractions and we want to extend the season."
He added: "We feel that once the development is up and running there will be more advantages for them than disadvantages.
"My father and other two brothers have invested in new rides and attractions, and we wouldn't do anything we felt was going to be detrimental to the long-term future of Ocean Beach.
"We feel the minute you stop investing is the minute you start going backwards."
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