Blocking the creation of a new cafe could be the nail in the coffin of a “dying” coastal community, locals have warned.
Planning officials have recommended plans to convert an old ice house in Portgordon be rejected on heritage grounds.
But the community stalwart leading the fight to have them overruled says the focus should instead be on the economic survival of the village.
Lennox Community Council chairwoman Maureen Burrows said it could not survive if it offered residents and visitors “nothing but a nice view”.
The coastal community was divided over previous plans to capitalise on the ice house along the road to Buckie, which already acts as a gathering point for nature enthusiasts to watch the region’s seal colony at close range.
But a new venture put forward by developer Brigid Aitken curried favour with the community, attracting seven times more letters in support than objections.
Ms Aitken wants to bring new life to the coastal spot by creating a café and car park beside the old fishing building, along with space for yoga sessions and art exhibitions.
Planning experts say the proposal would ruin the historic appearance of the old building.
But Mrs Burrows has been left “despondent” by their recommendation that the plans be rejected by elected members next week.
Yesterday she issued a grim warning for the future of the village should would-be developers be given the impression it is a “no go zone”.
She said: “I’m hoping that Moray Council will recognise that rejecting this scheme will be of no benefit to the village.
“It would be devastating for Portgordon
“There has just been so little investment in this area and this was the chance for us to have something new.
“The ice house has lain derelict for as long as I can remember. If these plans are scrapped then I can’t see anything ever happening to it.
“The area is dying, there is nothing new here and rejecting this idea will put people off trying to invest in Portgordon.
“There will be no benefit to living here other than a nice view, and you can’t live on a view.”
The B-listed Gollachy Ice House was first earmarked for development in 2013, as part of a controversial scheme which “tore apart” the quiet coastal community.
The venture, which included building nine houses along the shore and a boathouse, was abandoned the following year amid a furious backlash.
Since then, Portgordon residents have clubbed together to buy the disputed plot of land along the seafront to prevent it from being built upon.
Mrs Burrows said that ill-feeling over the divisive scheme still lingers in the village.
But she added that there was a positive response to the recent application to develop the ice house.
The 63-year-old added: “Mums with prams have been saying how nice it would be to be able to go along there for a coffee.
“And having the yoga lessons would bring lots of new people to Portgordon, it’s not the sort of thing you get around here.”
Fellow resident, Christine Fairbairn, said: “I think a lot of people will be disappointed if this doesn’t go ahead.
“There is a lot of potential around here and I hope the council take on board what the majority of folk want.”
Villager Elaine Wilson added: “We could do with some rejuventaion here, and the area in question is perfect for such a development.
“I would say 85% of the village is in favour of the idea.”
But concerns remain among some of their neighbours.
Pringle George said: “I can understand Mrs Burrows’ concerns about the village, but I don’t think this application is very practical.”
The council’s newly established planning committee carried out a site visit at the ice house yesterday.
Members will meet to discuss the approval on Tuesday.
Officers say that plans to build a flat above the 19th century building go against regulations, and worry that the revamp would conflict with its historic appearance.
The same report states that the application has attracted 48 letters in support and just seven objections.
Ms Aitken expressed her “disappointment” at the recommendation, but argued that her ideas would enhance the site and help celebrate its natural beauty.