Pontins £5m sale expected 'in days'... but what will it mean for Hemsby?
- Credit: DB
The former Pontins holiday camp in Hemsby is set to be sold to an investment fund within days, prompting fears the new owner could send plans to renovate the troubled site “back to the drawing board”.
The 23-acre east Norfolk site has been expected to sell for £5m to £6m and has been on the market since March, when the developer went bust following the collapse of its main lender.
Liquidators FRP have now selected a buyer, and heads of terms have been signed - meaning the broad strokes of the deal have been agreed but the sale is not quite complete.
The buyer is a "well-known large investment fund", according to sources familiar with the deal.
The site became a notorious eyesore, frequently targeted by vandals and arsonists, in the decade it lay derelict after Ocean Parcs withdrew in 2008.
But since its purchase in 2019 show homes have sprung up, planning consent has been granted, and work was underway to transform the area into nearly 300 homes and holiday lets, plus a leisure centre and a convenience store.
Now though there is no guarantee a new buyer will proceed with these plans.
FRP’s Nedim Ailyan warned: “As sad as it is, it’s not my concern if they decide to mothball the site for ten years.
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“Are we back at square one? I don’t know. They might decide to go ahead, they might start from scratch.”
Campaigners worry a new owner may seek planning permission for more permanent homes.
Hemsby Action Group founder Kim McAdoo said: “Whoever buys it, if the holiday restrictions go out the window, if they get planning for more properties, I think it’s going to escalate to a worse situation.
“I don’t feel very hopeful. From the very start we fought so hard for it to remain as holiday accommodation, we just can’t support more housing.
"You can’t get a dentist or a doctor for miles, there isn’t the infrastructure.”
Lyndon Bevan, 62, chairman of the Great Yarmouth business investment district said: “I would have thought they'd buy it and put it in a land bank.
“Unless you’re going to carry on by not demolishing, where do you go? So that will mean back to the drawing board with a new planning application.
“We’ve been putting up with this for nearly 15 years already. Enough is enough.”
The project has seen its share of controversy since the site was bought for £4m in February 2019 by Ipswich entrepreneur Graham Avery, through his company Pine Developments Ltd.
Despite some objections Pine received council approval for its plans for 188 residential houses, 91 holiday homes and 38 wooden lodges, as well as three more shops, a leisure centre, a swimming pool, and a cafe.
But work seemed to be progressing slowly and concerns about the viability of the project were raised last August after the collapse of three of Mr Avery’s companies which had lent money to each other or to Pine Developments.
In February Mr Avery asked to remove a planning condition banning residency in the holiday homes for the last two weeks of January, but councillors overruled their own officers’ advice and denied his request, saying that without the enforced break the council couldn’t control their use as holiday homes.
And in late March Pine went under after creditor SHP Capital called in a £10m loan during its own insolvency.
Mr Avery declined to comment for this article.