'Like a family break up' says former Pontins worker 'still devastated' at way Prestatyn site shut

Kevin O'Neill was looking forwards to his sixteenth year working at Pontins, Prestatyn. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

It's almost two months since Pontins announced it was closing its Prestatyn park with "immediate effect" and staff are still "shocked and devastated" at the way it was handled.

Kevin O'Neill from Gwaenysgor was looking forward to his sixteenth year with the company and says it's been like a "family break-up" for everyone who worked there.

He found out he was losing his job from a friend who used to work at the holiday park. He said: "There was no formal letter or anything. Nobody got anything. No word we were shutting down.

"It just closed. It was hard to believe at first because there were so many people texting and on Facebook and on WhatsApp, you know, and everybody was in disbelief that it closed down."

He says it has had a huge impact on so many people's lives with many worrying about how they are going to cover bills and mortgage. "All of a sudden, everything's just cut from you", Mr O'Neill said.

"There was one staff member who was very, very upset because he'd just got a house, he just bought a new house and he was really struggling because there was no money coming in, you know, he had, he had kids and everything.

"He was getting really upset."

It's had a big impact on people's health and wellbeing too according to Mr O'Neill. He says it's become a "psychological thing" because "it's close friends and members of your community".

He added: "All of a sudden everybody's just been dispersed. That bond that they had, they've lost it."They feel really, really upset or upset, just demoralized by, by the whole thing, you know, the way it was treated."

Mr O'Neill loved his job saying "the money was great" and "it was no hardship" being there.

He continued: "I knew what job I was doing and I enjoyed it. And the people that were there were all great people and we used to see the same faces every year.

"And the management was great as well. We got a really good team of managers, so everything was really good and that's why I worked there.

"It's the longest job I've had in my life, so it must have been good."Some of those who lost their job have now found new employment at other holiday camps in the area.

But Mr O'Oneill says what is becoming an increasing source of concern is "the company's silence on what they have planned."

Local MP Dr James Davies wants to speak to the company to tell them of the interest there is in the site from tourism operators. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Pontins is one of three holiday parks closed around the UK and the Secretary of State for Media, Sport and Culture, Lucy Frazer MP has intervened,  writing to the company saying she has become concerned about reports that the company is failing to engage and asking for a meeting.

Local MP Dr James Davies says he wants to speak to the company to tell them of the interest there is in the site from tourism operators. He said: "I have written to 14 companies with tourism backgrounds who are highly regarded. I've had responses from a good number of those that are at least three expressions of interest.

"I'm aware of tourism-related companies interested in this site, in purchasing this site, or taking it forward in a positive way. The difficulty I'm having is making contact with Britannia hotels."So the local people, people who used to work here, the residents living right next door, the whole town obviously want to know the future of the site, why it shut? What Britannia hopes to do with it in the future."

Mr Davies continued: "I'm really keen to speak to Britannia because I want to express to them the interest I've had from other companies in taking the site on, but that is proving a real challenge."Pontins in Southport and Camba Sands have also shut, and I've been working with the MP from those areas and with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to express to her the concern that there is. And she has very helpfully written to Britannia to promote the importance of negotiation of discussion because that's what we all want to see."

Denbighshire Councillor Jason McLellan says the local authority is concerned at the lack of information. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Denbighshire Council also want to see progress, says the council leader, councillor Jason McLellan, adding there is "concern at the lack of information".

"We can't make any decisions until we've had discussions with the owners Britannia. And as I say, that's proved problematic. It's a big site. Tourism is important to Prestatyn, to the town, to the region. So the thoughts are, we'd like this to very much remain within tourism."We have had contact with them. They arranged the meeting and then quite suddenly rearranged it. We're still awaiting a date."It's important for a number of reasons, primarily employment, jobs. It employed a lot of people here and starting it's a large site as well, which cannot be kept empty for long. It's an important part of the history and culture of Prestatyn as well."

ITV Wales has contacted Britannia Hotels for a comment on the issues raised but as yet has received no reply.

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