Marsden Grotto boss slams council for hold-ups over proposals for gazebo at historic pub
A hotel and bar boss has called for action to resolve a long-running planning battle that has left his bid to build a gazebo at one of South Tyneside’s best-known coastal landmarks, on the rocks.
Terry Maughan has criticised council bosses for taking eight months to study his application to add the feature to steps at the Marsden Grotto – and still not giving the go-ahead.
He claims he has spent thousands of pounds commissioning a geological survey demanded by them for the environmentally sensitive site.
Despite that, Mr Maughan, 52, who bought the Grotto two years ago, claims planners at South Tyneside Council continue to unnecessarily delay his bid.
The Grotto sits within the Durham Coast Special Area of Conservation and the Durham Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest.
It is also close to designated sites of importance, including the Northumberland Coast Special Area of Protection, the Leas, Marsden Lime Kilns, and Lizard Lane Cutting.
Mr Maughan, who previously won permission to renovate the Grotto’s unused upper floor into a 10 bedroom hotel, has now urged them to resolve the issue.
He said: “They are making me jump through hoops, and yet when I speak to them, they don’t seem to know exactly what it is they want me to do.
“I accept is it an important location in terms of its wildlife, but it would be helpful if they clearer on what is needed. I’d hoped to have this sorted by the summer.
“They asked me to carry out a geological survey, which has cost me £3,000, and even after I’ve done that, they’ve not been able to say what else is needed for me to get my plan approved.
“There is no give at all on the council’s part. They say it’s an area of special interest, which it is, but I’m not trying to do anything that will damage the environment.”
He added: “I’ve said before that there is so much red tape and bureaucracy in South Tyneside that I’ll be unlikely to invest here again.
“I’ve recently bought an old auction house in Morpeth, and within about five weeks I was granted planning permission by the council there to turn it into a hotel and restaurant bar.
“Everything seems to move much faster in other local authority areas than it does in South Tyneside.”
Mr Maughan, who operates the Grotto through his Northumberland Castle and Country Lodgings Ltd company, launched his gazebo planning bid in October.
He wants to construct a permanent stone feature by extending the existing terrace onto Marsden beach and remodelling a slice of protective sea wall.
The businessman has alleged council planners want the gazebo to be built of steel and not stone, and says its environmental concerns and those of heritage groups are unnecessary.
A council spokesman said: "Given the sensitive location of this application, both the council and Natural England requested a further ecological survey from the applicant.
“This was necessary to ensure that the development complied with the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, which is a legal requirement that must be followed in the determination of planning applications within this locality to consider the scheme’s impact, if any, upon both the protected coastline and wildlife in the area.
“It is important to note that Marsden Grotto is recognised by the council as a heritage asset and this area 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.
"It has not been possible to determine the planning application until the full details of the scheme and any impact on the area have been fully understood.
“Now that we have this survey, we will reach a decision on the application once Natural England’s comments have been received.”