I only have vague memories of Harcourt Sands Holiday Park whilst growing up on the Isle of Wight. I remember messing around on a playground there during a birthday party, and I discovered evidence whilst clearing out that I spent a day there as part of a Boys’ Brigade weekend in the mid 90s.
I’ll admit these are not heartwarming anecdotes of a bygone day but there’s a lot of affection for the site in Puckpool which now lies derelict and feels like an enormous waste of a prime seaside location.
Some of the videos and comments on YouTube offer the kind of affection you might expect following the death of a beloved aunt ("The memories with everyone will never be forgotten") as well as tales of people meeting their spouses in Whites.
According to various sources online it was two sites - St Clare and Puckpool – before merging in the 1990s and shutting in 2006.
According to the uploader, this film shows it a couple of years before closure in around 2004. Just look at all those smiling faces...
A year after closure came the fire which left the main entertainment area looking pretty sorry for itself.
Since then, various videos have appeared showing the whole site in its abandoned state. I'm a sucker for these videos, which make an empty site look like a sequel to the Blair Witch Project.
A few years later a plan emerged to turn the site into '128 residential dwellings, alongside a tourism proposal that would comprise either a 63 bed hotel or 15 holiday units'.
The recent news was that the developer had given up on that plan. At the time of writing, 2.8 acres of the site is up for sale for £350,000 with plans for a hotel.
One article quoted a local councillor who said that 'I would like to see housing there, as it would be a nice spot to live, and by just being empty it is affecting all the businesses in Ryde' and that 'I think the days of holiday camps are gone'.
Personally I have been hoping it might become a holiday park once again since most holiday parks have moved on a long way since the days of knobbly knee competitions and damp caravans.
Modern parks have a mix of posh lodges and cheap caravans as well as loads to do onsite. Hotels are great if you're a loved up couple but for families with young children a decent holiday park is ideal.
Holiday parks offer self catering accommodation so you don't have to ask the hotel to cook you chicken nuggets at 4.15pm and you get access to an indoor swimming pool in case it rains all week.
And holiday parks are big business too. The company which owns Butlins and Haven made £160m profit recently. In 2015 Parkdean Resorts merged with Park Resorts (owner of four Isle of Wight parks) to create a "£1bn company" (The Guardian). The big parks regularly invest in upgrades which must help the local economy too.
I'd be delighted if a big holiday park company decided to buy up the Harcourt Sands site. Haven - for example - has no presence on the Isle of Wight, many of their sites are right by the sea and they are still opening new parks (Thornwick Bay in Yorkshire opened in 2016).
Sure, there's probably more money in housing but is anyone on YouTube going to make heartfelt tribute videos about a housing estate?
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