Iconic landmark is put on the market

A COMMUNITY expressed its regret last night after learning an iconic north Suffolk landmark that attracts visitors from across the country has been put up for sale.

A COMMUNITY expressed its regret last night after learning an iconic Suffolk landmark that attracts visitors form across the country has been put up for sale.

Stephen and Antonia Bournes have put Southwold Pier on the market for �6m because they are unable to commit to a hotel extension to replace the existing pavilion.

The 30-bedroom luxury hotel was originally due to cost �2m - �3m but, with the project now estimated at �5m, it is no longer financially viable for the couple, who have two teenage sons.

Last night community leaders said they understood the decision and hoped whoever bought the popular attraction - which is up for sale with Christie + Co - would continue along similar lines as the Bournes.

Mayor Sue Allen, who is also a district councillor, said: 'I'm sorry its up for sale. Its important that whoever buys it keeps the pier as it is.

'It works well for Southwold and we wouldn't want anything that you find in larger seaside towns. We will now have to wait and see what happens.'

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Adele Buckley, spokeswoman for the Southwold and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: 'It is very sad but you have to respect the decision. Stephen and Antonia have really upgraded the pier since they took over.

'I just hope the new owners will build the new hotel sympathetically to the town. We desperately need more accommodation and permanent employment, which I think a hotel would bring.'

Planning permission for the hotel was given in December last year and the scheme was three years in the making.

Mr Bournes said: 'I'm very sad because it's a fantastic project.

'We have taken the long term view that we have two boys aged 13 and 15 and I would have to work flat out for 10 years to secure it.'

The pier is the second biggest employer in Southwold and has 45 full time staff, which rises to 95 in the summer season. They were told about the sale on Monday.

Mr Bournes, who bought the pier in March 2005, hopes the new owner will build the five-storey hotel as soon as possible because a lot of the facilities are in need of renovation.

'It is really important for everything to go ahead and we want someone to carry on with it,' he said.

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