'Impact of Oxwich Bay Hotel's wedding marquee is exaggerated'
THE bell is yet to ring but punches have already been thrown as the latest skirmish in a Gower planning battle gets underway.
Chartered surveyor Patrick Atherton — representing Oxwich Bay Hotel — which has again applied for permission to use its wedding marquee all year round rather than for seven months of the year, has aimed his sights at the Gower Society.
In a report which forms part of the hotel's application to Swansea Council, Mr Atherton said: "The visual impact of the marquees has been exaggerated and inaccurately portrayed by objectors, particularly the Gower Society, which is a minority interest pressure group that does not represent the views and best interests of the majority of Gower's residents and business proprietors."
The Post asked society chairman Malcolm Ridge to respond, but he was unavailable at the time of going to press.
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Mr Atherton also made allegations about the state of the nearby beach, which forms part of the Penrice Estate — owned by the Methuen-Campbell family.
"Views of the southern part of Oxwich Beach are spoiled and scarred by parked vehicles, ugly and poorly maintained concrete block buildings with flat felt roofs, burnt and rusting red waste skips, brightly painted shipping containers and various materials which have been imported to raise the level of the top part of the beach," said the report.
"The materials, which include Tarmac, lumps of concrete, hard core and rock armour are strewn across the sand."
Thomas Methuen-Campbell described these claims as "nonsense". He said: "All the material on the beach is natural, brought in by the tide.
"Any lumps of concrete may have come from the boat ramp.
"The containers for watersports have been totally repainted.
"The two shops and toilets are soon to be replastered."
Referring to the marquee, he added: "Every beach visitor has said, "What a dreadful eyesore", particularly in the winter."
Mr Atherton said erecting the marquee and taking it down each year — to comply with a planning condition — would lose the hotel nine to 10 weeks of trading.
He said the hotel would cease without the marquee. It was, he said, one of just five left in the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
"In the past 20 years, 24 of Gower's hotels have ceased trading," he said.
Mr Atherton pointed out that, on the plus side, a derelict coal store on Oxwich Beach was being converted into a restaurant. Mr Methuen-Campbell is behind these plans.
The Gower Society was formed in 1947 and aims to protect the peninsula's heritage and built environment, among others.
In a letter to the Post last December, chairman Malcolm Ridge said the society did not object when the marquee was first applied for in 2004, for the summer period and December only.
This temporary permission continued until 2009, when it was revised to April 1 to October 31 only, with the condition that the marquee must be removed from November 1 to March 31.
The society, he said, had no quarrel with the hotel owner.