Controversial plans for a multi-faith natural burial ground in Langho, Lancashire, could "decimate" business at the neighbouring four-red-AA-star, 26-bedroom Northcote hotel.
An application for the burial ground, which could accommodate up to 8,000 plots, is expected to be submitted shortly to Ribble Valley Borough Council. A similar application for a cemetery on and alongside the A59 was rejected by councillors in 2006 on the ground of the damaging impact of increased traffic to the area.
Craig Bancroft, joint managing director with Nigel Haworth of Northcote, said the development could "decimate a well-invested, vibrant and progressive business".
"Our main reasons for objection are traffic movements, congestion, ecological issues and geological issues, in particular the pollution of the water course, which may affect our hotel borehole, not to mention the general disruption and congestion caused by funerals arriving all at once and anniversary visits to the site, which can be significant," he told The Caterer.
Northcote has recently completed a £7m expansion and refurbishment, funded by majority shareholders, Richard and Lynda Matthewman, which has seen the hotel expand from 14 to 26 bedrooms, an extension of the restaurant to serve 80 covers, and the installation of a new kitchen, private dining room, cookery school and staff facilities.
While business is currently growing as a result of the new facilities, Bancroft and Haworth are concerned that if the burial ground is given the go-ahead, bookings will start to decline.
"We are already experiencing phone calls to hold off making a firm booking for a wedding or special birthday parties in the next few years, on the basis that our clients wish to know if this project will or will not go ahead," said Bancroft. "The vision of our 40 wedding guests on the Louis Roederer Room Courtyard overlooking this on the day of multiple funerals does not bear thinking about."
Northcote is supported in its objection to the burial ground by the MP for Ribble Valley, Nigel Evans, who told The Caterer that he does not believe there is a need for a burial ground in Langho as the cemetery at nearby Pleasington has "a number of years left" before reaching capacity.
"It is clear that the local infrastructure, particularly the roads, could not cope with the large influx of traffic that would come if the application of the burial ground were passed," he explained.
"I recognise that this application is going to have serious implications for Northcote and have made my support for Craig and Nigel known. They have spent many years building up the business and it is a great success, employing many local people."
Meanwhile, Esa said the ecological and geological objections to the plans were unfounded. "We have carried out extensive research and there is no evidence that there will be any impact on the water course."
He also dismissed the concerns surrounding increased traffic. "I find it very funny that Northcote should be raising this as an issue considering the increase in traffic to the area as a result of the hotel's development.
"As a natural burial ground, there will be no headstones and no visual impact. The plots will be covered by meadow flowers and we intend to plant 5,000 trees and 40,000 bulbs."
Esa said that the planning application will be submitted to the council within the next month.
Northcote, which holds a Michelin star, is a member of the Relais & Chateaux and Pride of Britain consortiums.