An historic seafront pub is set for a tide of change after planners overcame environmental concerns to give the go-ahead for it to operate as a hotel.
Bosses at the Marsden Grotto expect to start work to transform its first floor into 10 bedrooms within a fortnight and hope it will be open for its first customers by the end of 2018.
The £500,000 project appeared to have hit the rocks when South Tyneside Council warned about its possible impact on its ecologically sensitive location.
The Grotto sits within an area of globally recognised wildlife and scientific interest and is classed as one of the borough’s sites of historic importance.
Planners had warned owner Terry Maughan that he had not carried out relevant studies into the development’s possible impact on wildlife - a move he condemned as bureaucracy gone mad.
Mr Maughan, 50, who bought the Grotto last Easter, confirmed relevant checks had been done and had cleared any hurdles.
He said: “It was more of a misunderstanding than anything else and there are now no objections from the council.
“The green light has been given and I’m very happy about that.
“We hope to start the clear out of the first floor within the next week.
“If there are no unforeseen problems, we hope to open the hotel part of the Grotto by the end of next year or early in 2019.”
Mr Maughan has already transformed the Grotto’s ground floor into a popular seafood restaurant and maintained its public bar.
They will remain open during all hotel development works.
His Northumberland Castle and Country Lodgings Ltd firm also owns The Sun Hotel at Warkworth and the Manor House Hotel on Holy Island, both Northumberland.
Concerns around the conversion stemmed from the Grotto sitting within the Durham Coast Special Area of Conservation and the Durham Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and close to designated sites of importance - the Leas, Marsden Lime Kilns, Lizard Lane Cutting, and Marsden Old Quarry Local Nature Reserve and Local Wildlife Site.
The council requested further information from Mr Maughan, in consultation with Natural England, in terms of the impact of the proposed hotel upon the sensitive area.
In a new report, it said: “It is the council’s opinion that the proposed change of use, whilst being within sensitive areas, would not, on the basis of all information provided, have significant environmental impacts.”