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Pontins closure 'sign of times'

PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:44 03 July 2010

END TO FUN: Pontins at Hemsby

END TO FUN: Pontins at Hemsby

Liz Coates

Tourism chiefs were this week staying true to the Pontin's “keep smiling” motto and putting a brave face on the sudden closure.

Shocked staff were told they had 48 hours to leave and this week the future of the site and its 55 workers remained unclear.

Tourism chiefs were this week staying true to the Pontin's “keep smiling” motto and putting a brave face on the sudden closure.

Shocked staff were told they had 48 hours to leave and this week the future of the site and its 55 workers remained unclear.

But Graham Plant, cabinet member for regeneration and tourism, said he hoped there was still a chance a buyer could be found to invest in the prime site which has been at the heart of holidays in Hemsby for more than 90 years.

In the right hands it could come up trumps like Butlin's in Skegness or Potters Leisure Resort which had successfully reinvented themselves for the modern holidaymaker.

“It's a sign of the times,” he said.

“If people can get through these next few months to the summer things will start to look up. They are going to have to sit tight on the site until the property market picks up and they will maintain it while they want to sell it.”

This week's surprise announcement follows the acquisition last March by Oceans Parcs of seven Pontin's sites, including one in Pakefield, near Lowestoft, for £46m.

At the time the company said it would revitalise Pontin's but decided to abandon Hemsby from its investment plans after a feasibility study.

The leader of Yarmouth Borough Council Barry Coleman said he was saddened by the news: “Obviously anything that reduces the workforce at this present time is very sad.

“It will leave a big hole in the rural economy, and Hemsby in particular, as many people who work there live in and rely on the camp.”

A source close to the camp said that representatives from the company's head office visited Hemsby on Monday morning and told staff they had 48 hours to clear their desks.

Some staff were said to be in tears as the closure news came totally out of the blue.

Ocean Parcs said a consultation process will be launched to find alternative jobs for the 19 long-term and 36 short-term employees at its other six sites - but redundancies could not be ruled out.

The company said that the future of its Pakefield and other five sites looked secure because bookings were up.

Pamela Knight, spokeswoman, said: “It is with regret that we have come to this decision. The management and staff worked hard over the years to provide great holidays at this centre.

“We acquired the holiday camp on a short-term lease and reviewed its future potential and concluded that it is limited without significant investment which is not feasible within the remaining lease term.

“This combined with declining bookings and escalating costs has resulted in the decision to close immediately as it is not viable to trade the centre for the remaining nine months of the lease.

“However, we believe that our six remaining holiday centres do provide exciting opportunities to expand Pontin's brand where bookings are up year on year.”

Ocean Parcs said that any holiday makers who have already booked at Hemsby for the forthcoming season will be able to transfer their booking to another Pontin's or have a full refund.


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