PROPRIETORS of the Port Light Hotel at Bolberry Down, are appealing against a decision by South Hams Council to refuse their planning application to upgrade the site.

Sean and Hazel Hassall say they were surprised by the decision as they had worked closely with their planning consultant and architect for a year before submitting the application.

Mr and Mrs Hassall said: 'Work is much needed to the main part of the building which was constructed in 1909.'

Their proposal incorporated a new hotel, restaurant, cottages for holiday use only and an indoor swimming pool in what they felt to be an aesthetically pleasing courtyard design.

The plans met with approval from Malborough parish council, tourists and a majority of locals.

But the refusal statement stated that the redevelopment 'would result in a most assertive form of development in a visually prominent location which would be out of character with the locality.'

It adds: 'It does not constitute a good design and would result in unacceptable harm to the character and appearance of the landscape and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Coastal Preservation Area.'

But Mr and Mrs Hassall – with the guidance of an established architect, locals and visitors to the area – feel the proposed design was one that would enhance the natural environment and not detract from it.

The building as it stands now is, by their own admission, not one of architectural merit, nor do they feel it is fitting to the environment of Bolberry Down.

Sean said: 'It is crucial for the hotel business to move forward and not to become complacent.

'Customers expect increasingly high standards for the money they are spending and we should be able to provide this for them.

'Tourism is vital to sustaining the South Hams. The general feedback from tourism professionals, locals and customers alike about the refusal is one of disbelief.

'Many people stop us to ask how the building work is progressing as it was assumed by most that the application would be granted.

'We feel it is vitally important that locals are kept abreast of the planning stages.

'My wife and I, are feeling confident that, with the wisdom of the inspectors, we will be granted outline planning permission through the appeal process.

'We will then continue with the process of gaining full planning permission.

'Unfortunately, all of these stages take a long time. With this in mind we will definitely be trading as normal throughout the festive period and the 2012 season.'