A proposal to convert an historic seafront pub into an hotel have been rocked by planners worried about wildlife.
They say bosses at the Marsden Grotto have failed to consider the £500,000 project’s possible ecological impact on sites and are to recommend councillors turn down the application.
Owner Terry Maughan – who is seeking to make only internal renovations - condemned the decision as bureaucracy gone mad and fears his plan to add 10 bedrooms to the first floor will suffer serious delays and incur unnecessary expense.
Mr Maughan, 50, said: “This is a ridiculous decision. The council are just throwing hurdles in the way.
“No one had ever mentioned a need for all these surveys until now. Some of the sites they are worried about are far from the Grotto, and the works I have planned could have no possible impact on them.
“I understand that the area around the Grotto is of ecological importance, but I’m only making small internal changes.”
He added: “These types of surveys can take months and will be costly. There is just no need for them – I hope common sense can prevail.
“I was hoping to open as a hotel next summer, but that will definitely not happen now if all this extra work is needed.”
Mr Maughan, boss of Northumberland Castle and Country Lodgings Ltd, wants to convert the pub’s open plan first floor into bedrooms, leaving the existing ground floor bar and restaurant.
South Tyneside Council planning officer David Rogerson has told Mr Maughan concerns centre on the Grotto being within the Durham Coast Special Area of Conservation and the Durham Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - and within 500m of other designated sites.
These include the Northumberland Coast Special Area of Protection, the Leas, Marsden Lime Kilns, Lizard Lane Cutting, and Marsden Old Quarry Local Nature Reserve and Local Wildlife Site.
A South Tyneside Council spokeswoman said: “Marsden Bay is located within an area of coastline that is well known for its biodiversity, particularly its bird population.
“Planning applications are assessed in line with Government legislation, which includes policies to safeguard biodiversity, protected species and wildlife habitats.
“We have requested further information from the applicant, in consultation with Natural England, in terms of the impact of the proposed hotel upon this sensitive area and we are therefore unable to determine this particular application as it currently stands.”