OWNERS of beach huts at Mudeford Spit who fear they will be left in the shade by a new two storey restaurant on the seafront have launched a petition opposing the council’s plans.

The beach hut owners are embroiled in a bitter row with BCP Council over the plans to rebuild the cafe in Christchurch after it burnt down two years ago.

Officials have decided to seize the opportunity to create a 'signature' £1m restaurant, which will be much bigger than the one it will replace with the inclusion of a second storey.

A planning application for the new Beach House has attracted more than 200 letters of objection.

Save Mudeford Sandbanks, a website opposing the plans, has been set up in response to the proposal, appealing for locals to register your opposition to the council’s online beach house consultation form.

A statement on the website said: “The café has long provided a place of refreshment for walkers and beach-goers and supplies for the community of huts.

“But in recent years it has a become a high-volume takeaway and party venue bringing noise lasting all day and often into the late evening with over-crowding of areas around the café, the inevitable litter and more anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol.

“Those who want a buzzy bar life can find it elsewhere in the area. The Sandspit should be a place where children, families and older folk can feel safe.”

Stephen Bath, whose hut is close to the site, said: "The Beach House is very profitable in the summer, probably because it's the only facility on Britain's most famous residential beach.

"The beach hut owners don't want too much change. There is a height limit to the beach huts and that should also apply to the restaurant.

"Instead they have come up with this hugely controversial plan that could cost up to £1m.

"Times are supposed to be tough for councils, why would anyone in their right minds want to blow a fortune when they could have it like-for-like for nothing?"

Steve Barratt, chairman of the Mudeford Sandbank Beach Hut Association, said: "The proposal for the Beach House cafe is a betrayal of the trust placed in the council.

"It will have a negative effect on hut owners and result in a building that would dominate the landscape for miles and destroy the openness of the site in an environmentally sensitive area.

"We are incensed that the council would want to spend over £1.1m of public money based on an unproven commercial case at a time of Covid-19 uncertainty."

There has been a cafe at Mudeford since the 1950s.

The Beach House was badly damaged in the fire in November 2018 and since then the tenants have run a temporary service there.

BCP Council, which owns the site, received an insurance payout of £350,000 for the loss of the building. It will borrow £800,000 to pay for the replacement restaurant.

Officials have put the planning application on hold until a review of the project is completed in September.

Council leader Vikki Slade said: "Proposals are for a modern airy design, in keeping with this beautiful and unique beach location.

"We also want to prioritise affordable, innovative, sustainable technologies and practices in-line with our aspirations to address the global climate-change emergency."

Meanwhile Kim Slater, who has run the Beach House restaurant for 16 years, said he is caught in the middle and just wants the restaurant rebuilt.

Mr Slater said: "Everything seems to be going round in circles and nobody seems to know what's next.

"We just want to get open and trading.

"We would love to be more involved in a design that suits us. It's missing a massive opportunity to put something really cool down there.

"We were happy to pay more rent if we could have more covers. The council planned 20 more covers but when they got complaints from the hut owners, they took the 20 off."