Butlin's wants to buy abandoned Pontins site

Pontins in Southport was shut down earlier this year
Pontins in Southport was shut down earlier this year -Credit:Iain Watts/Liverpool Echo

The abandoned site of Pontins Southport could be snapped up by rival holiday company Butlin's.

Butlins' boss, John Hendry Pickup, has revealed that the business has contacted Pontins’ owner Britannia Hotels about taking over its closed-down locations in either Southport or Prestatyn, North Wales.

The Southport holiday park closed without warning in January. The shock news came just two months after the closure of two other Pontins sites, Pretatyn and Camber Sands, East Sussex.

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Mr Hendry Pickup told The Mirror he wanted to purchase one of the sites - but had yet to receive a response from Britannia Hotels. He said: “We would definitely still be interested. We would definitely like a conversation with them.” Referring to the Pontins’ Southport, he said: “It is an existing site so there is no need to dig up the countryside.”

Were it to get the site, he said it would most likely flatten what is there now, meaning it would be a longer-term investment. The Southport and Prestatyn camps are attractive to Butlin’s as it does not have a resort in North West England, and it unlikely to start one anywhere else from scratch.

Butlin’s three existing resorts are in Minehead, Somerset, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, and Skegness, Lincolnshire. The closure of the three Pontins sites comes as Butlin’s prepares for what it predicts will be a record year, with guest numbers set to top 1.5m. Accounts for 2023 have yet to be released, but turnover in 2022 jumped 54% to £290.4m from the prior year, which was affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

The company is part way through a £150m investment project, which runs until 2027. Plans include a £15m indoor activity centre at Bognor Regis and over 100 brand new and luxury lodges at Skegness.

Mr Hendry Pickup said: “The mission is to give loads of things to do. The mission isn’t to relax - if people want to do that, we aren’t for them.”

TV presenter Stephen Mulhern - a former Butlin’s Redcoat - is among acts due to perform in Bognor Regis, Skegness and Minehead this summer. Other acts, due to appear at various Butlin's Big Weekender events, include Atomic Kitten, Jason Donovan, and Chesney Hawkes.

The history of Butlin's

  • Founded by Billy Butlin, who started his career as a travelling showman, with the aim of providing affordable holidays for ordinary families.

  • His first resort, in Skegness, opened in April 1936, and within a year it had doubled in size.

  • Resorts followed at Clacton, Ayr, Pwllheli, Bognor Regis, Mosney, Minehead and Barry Island. It even had one in the Bahamas.

  • Many had funfair rides - Billy Butin is credited with bringing dodgems to the UK - roller skating, boating and beauty pageants. There were also its famous talent contests, complete with knobbly knees competition.

  • Over the years, resorts have also featured everything from monorails, glass-sided swimming pools to ski slopes.

  • Butlin’s has gone through various owners and, with it, many of its sites either closed or were sold.

  • In late 2022, US private equity giant Blackstone agreed to sell Butlin’s to the Harris family for £300million. Billionaire Peter Harris is now its ultimate owner.

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