The owner of one of South Tyneside best known attractions has slammed council chiefs over what he claims is a “red tape” nightmare which is costing investment.
Terry Maughan, who owns the Marsden Grotto, says he is unlikely to take on new projects in the borough because of the bureaucratic hoops he claims he is having to jump through.
Council chiefs, however, say the environmentally sensitive site and any changes have to be the subject of consultations.
The row has flared over what Mr Maughan says are ‘unnecessary changes’ to his plans to build a permanent stone gazebo at the landmark pub and hotel.
It would see part of the existing stone terrace extended onto Marsden beach and a slice of the protective sea wall remodelled.
Mr Maughan, 51, has been asked to revise his original gazebo plan.
He alleges South Tyneside Council planners want him to built it out of steel not stone, and that it and heritage groups have unnecessary environmental concerns.
The businessman says he had been considering purchasing the shut-down Whitburn Lodge pub, around a mile south of the Grotto, but has now withdrawn any interest.
Mr Maughan said: “Getting permission for the gazebo has been such a headache that I don’t think I can invest in South Tyneside again. I have thought about looking at Whitburn Lodge but this experience means that I wouldn’t think about buying it now.
“These council people sit in their offices and make you jump through hoops. I’ve been back with some planning changes just to try to keep them happy, but I don’t know if it’s enough.
“The gazebo would be for weddings and would only be big enough for around 15 people, but this experience has put me off investing further in South Tyneside.”
Mr Maughan operates the Grotto through his Northumberland Castle and Country Lodgings Ltd company.
His plan to create 10 bedrooms in the Grotto’s upper floor went ahead despite initial environmental concerns by South Tyneside Council.
South Tyneside Council said Mr Maughan’s planning application was for a very sensitive location and confirmed he had provided additional information regarding the proposed construction works.
A spokeswoman added: “Marsden Grotto is recognised as a heritage asset and lies within the undeveloped coastline, which has been given special recognition at national and European level due to its unusual flora, fauna and bird breeding habitat.
“Before reaching a decision on all planning applications, the council must consult with interested third parties and it must have careful regard to any comments made in response to this consultation exercise.
“The consultation exercise for the current application at Marsden Grotto has not yet expired and the comments from Natural England are awaited.”