Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Seafood Bothy owner returns £20,000 grant for hut revamp after council refuse plans due to lobster fears

Maria Lewis was left baffled as a senior Stonehaven councillor offered a jaw-dropping reason for rejecting her proposal.

Fears about scary Stonehaven lobsters scuppered businesswoman Maria Lewis's plans
Fishermen from the Even Less boat made light of the issue by dressing up as a pair of giant Stonehaven lobsters. Image: Maria Lewis

The owner of Stonehaven’s Seafood Bothy has handed back thousands of pounds after fears about “scary” lobsters scuppered business-boosting plans.

Maria Lewis last year bought an old fisherman’s shed along Shorehead in the hopes of transforming it into a second branch of her food business.

It would, she hoped, offer a safe place to trade from when waves force the closure of the converted horse trailer she operates yards away on the town’s pier.

Owner Maria Lewis at the Seafood Bothy in Stonehaven. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

And it would also act as a “mini museum”, with lobsters in tanks allowing youngsters to learn about their local seafood.

Last week, we revealed that Aberdeenshire councillors had quashed the plans due to road safety concerns along the seafront stretch.

Committee chairwoman Wendy Agnew sparked uproar by suggesting that children could be so spooked by the sudden movement of a crustacean that they could flee into traffic.

‘Scary’ Stonehaven lobsters spark social media frenzy

In the days that followed, the matter became something of an internet meme.

One man even got Chat GPT to compose a poem about the peculiar saga in the style of Robert Burns, sharing the result on social media.

It began: “Oh, Stonehaven harbour, braw and bonnie sight,

“Wi’ lobsters in a tank that shine sae bright,

“But bairns are feart, they scunner at the sight…”

Stonehaven Paddleboarding joined in on the fun too:

Inclawdreble! Some of you may have seen in the news about Lobsters being blamed for scaring children outside the…

Posted by Stonehaven Paddleboarding on Saturday, 18 March 2023

And a professor from Boston even weighed in on the issue, ridiculing the Conservative councillor’s “silly” claims.

Amy Bryzgel said she “used to love going to the fish store to look at the lobster tank” as she grew up in New England.

She added: “I never heard of any kid getting spooked by them!”

As the lobster debate reached boiling point, fishing crews from the area even poked fun at the stooshie by dressing up as 6ft tall versions of the clawed creatures.

Maria opened up her Seafood Bothy for a photo opportunity with the large lobsters.

Passersby might have been shell-shocked at the sight of these giant crustaceans. Image: Maria Lewis

‘We’ve had to hand £20,000 back now’

When I speak to Maria on Tuesday morning, she still can’t quite believe the storm that it caused.

And though she can smile about it now, she says that the blow to her business is no laughing matter.

The trader revealed she has not quite ruled out trying for planning permission again – even if she feels the odds could be stacked against her.

This shows the shed along the seafront that had been earmarked for the plans.  Image: Google Maps

And she opened up about her ordeal in trying to see her plans through – including having to return a £20,000 grant to help revamp the old shack.

Maria said: “Marine Scotland gave us a grant towards it because they thought it was a good idea.

“But it was reliant on the planning permission, so we have had to give the £20,000 back now.”

Reflecting  back on the crunch meeting, she said Mrs Agnew’s conclusion was “the biggest laugh of the day”.

And the £2,000 the Seafood Bothy shelled out on the application is money they will never see again.

Langoustines, which may or may not scare children.

‘I’m skint…’

Maria continued: “If it had been approved, we would have had it up and running by Easter.

“Because of this situation, I can’t work for four months of the year… I haven’t worked for the last four months and now I’m skint.

“I am very keen to get back to work on the pier.”

Now, they will most likely just turn the disputed unit into a storage shed.

Trader unsure about what to do next

More than 50 people wrote to the council to back the Seafood Bothy’s aims, while just 10 objections were received.

Despite all this, Maria was ready for defeat – she had been advised the road concerns were likely to stymie the plans.

The Seafood Bothy has been serving up lobsters for years at Stonehaven Harbour.

But she attended the recent Kincardine and Mearns area committee meeting anyway, just to “get it off her chest and have her say”.

She added: “I’m not sure if there is much point trying to contest the decision.

“I’ve had people who know about planning suggest that I go to appeal.

“If someone, say from the council, came to me and said they can help by guiding me through the process… Then I would look at it.

“And I could try re-applying next year for the same grant.”

You can watch the fateful meeting where fears about Stonehaven lobsters were raised:

(Skip to about 50 minutes in to hear Wendy Agnew’s infamous speech) 

Maria looking on the bright side after Stonehaven lobsters setback

Despite plunging thousands into the wasted effort, Maria laughed: “I see the funny side of it now…”

She added: “People feel sorry for me at the moment.”

And kicking off the season last weekend, she was buoyed by the support she received.

Freshly baked to sell to you from 12 @warkfarmpies

Posted by Seafood Bothy on Saturday, 18 March 2023

Maria explained: “I had people come from Arbroath, Dundee, Aboyne and Peterhead…

“International visitors naturally migrate to me too.

“And they don’t just visit me, they all go for a pint or an ice cream and spend money elsewhere in Stonehaven. They can spend the whole day here.”