Southwold Pier no longer for sale

IT is one of Suffolk's iconic landmarks – attracting tens of thousands of annual visitors from far and wide.

Now, the owners of Southwold Pier, Stephen and Antonia Bournes, have decided to take the well-loved structure off the market.

They put the popular attraction up for sale in July for �6million.

However, despite lots of interest from potential buyers, the couple have made a U-turn, saying they would be 'foolish' to leave such a fantastic project.

The news has been welcomed by the rest of the community, who were keen for the Bournes to stay on.

They had originally decided to sell because they could not commit to a planned multi-million pound extension of the pier, which first opened in 1900.

Mr Bournes said: 'We have decided to take it off the market. Our original reasons for putting it up for sale were down to finance and lifestyle.

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'But we thought about it long and hard and we love the pier so much that we decided it would be foolish to keep it on the market.

'It is such a great project. We were finding it very difficult to say goodbye because we love Southwold and we love the people who visit.

'It was a case of restructuring ourselves to keep within the business.'

Permission for a new 30-bedroom luxury hotel to replace the existing pavilion was given the go-ahead in December last year.

It was originally due to cost between �2m and �3m, but the estimate has now risen to �5m.

Mr Bournes said the long-term plan was still to go ahead with the refurbishment, but for now they would be investing �150,000 on new toilets and a larger kitchen area for the Boardwalk restaurant.

He added: 'It will allow greater comfort and facilities for our customers and the improvements are already included in the planning permission.

'This is the cheapest way of getting into the project. Over the next 18 months we will look for financing in different forms.

'There will also be a little bit of restructuring staff wise to help us upgrade and structure our lives. It's very exciting, we are pushing ahead big time.' Southwold Mayor Sue Allen said the pier was always busy and popular with tourists and that the Bournes had done a good job there.

She said: 'I think it brings in a lot of people – the town works as a whole and the pier is an important spoke in the wheel.'

The pier is the second biggest employer in Southwold and has 45 full-time staff, which rises to 95 people in the summer season.

Since taking the pier on in March 2005, the Bournes have transformed it into a thriving attraction again, with gift shops, a restaurant, cafes and an arcade of alternative slot machines.