Row brews over plans for Links

AN ENTREPRENEUR has vowed to continue his battle to open a new restaurant on The Links after senior council officials blocked his proposals at the 11th Hour.

Dan Miller had been given planning permission to open a new Sambuca restaurant at the mini golf course on the north end of the Links in Whitley Bay.

But despite also having an agreement in place with North Tyneside Council to open the restaurant as part of his tenancy of the building, cabinet members at their meeting last Monday agreed not to rent the site out as a restaurant.

Now Mr Miller, who has spent thousands of pounds on the proposals so far, is taking legal advice over the authority’s decision.

“Everything was done in a democratic process, planning permission was agreed,” he said. “We were going to create jobs and save and improve the golf course.

“But because local residents didn’t agree to it, cabinet members have overturned the vision for this facility.

“Our legal team is now looking to challenge the validity of the cabinet decision.

“If this was the cabinet’s view, why not make the decision earlier in the process instead of wasting my time and money. I want my money back.”

He added: “This fight isn’t over. This isn’t the end of it, it’s just the beginning.

“I’m frustrated the cabinet is making a mockery out of the democratic process.”

Mr Miller says the golf course is losing £35,000 a year while is in need of immediate work including new perimeter fencing, construction of a new clifftop footpath as the previous one has been lost to erosion, improving drainage, and moving the greens and tee boxes.

Speaking to the News Guardian, he said the only way to cover the costs was to create a restaurant – which would have resulted in a £25,000 a year rent and a total profit for the council of £60,000.

Mr Miller said: “The Mayor and her cabinet are out of touch.

“What they want to do is close the golf course down. They had the choice between a profit-making business or a loss-making attraction, and have gone for the latter.

“The cabinet have decided to protect a handful of residents living opposite the golf course rather than create a fantastic leisure facility.”

He added that as part of the plans for the restaurant, they had drawn up a five-year £300,000 capital expenditure scheme to further improve the site but following the cabinet’s decision that was no longer financially viable.

A total of 14 jobs would have been created by the restaurant, with Mr Miller securing the services of North East Chef of the Year John Connell.

But now they have been left in limbo and without a job following the council’s ruling.

“There were employment contracts in place,” said Mr Miller. “John Connell had brought in some of the best people to work with. People have left jobs to get involved in this.

“John has previously worked with Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsey. This was going to put the area on the map and make the golf course viable, give it a future.”

Mr Miller, who has spent two years drawing up the plans, had also secured an agreement with Lord Hastings to allow the covenant on The Links to be altered for the restaurant, which would have been called Sambuca Bistro.

The size of the proposed restaurant was also reduced following a public meeting, with hundreds of local residents still objecting to the proposals during the planning stage, but members of the council’s planning committee approved the plans.

Mayor Linda Arkley said: “The mini-golf facility at The Links, Whitley Bay, is a highly-valued local leisure amenity and attracts visitors from the borough and beyond, all year round.

“We want to ensure that any future plans for the facilities meet the expectations of North Tyneside Council and its residents and visitors, therefore any letting arrangements that we grant for the site will seek to ensure that is the case.

“Because the exact terms of the letting arrangements on the facility are currently subject to commercial negotiations, we are unable to comment in detail on them at this point.”