Hunstanton businessman Richard Searle dies

A popular businessman who ran a successful leisure group on the north Norfolk coast has died aged 66.

Richard Searle, chairman of Hunstanton-based Searles, passed away on Monday night, on board a flight home from a holiday abroad.

Mr Searle was a member of Hunstanton town and West Norfolk councils, serving the latter as cabinet member for regeneration.

Mr Searle was recognised for his contribution to the industry at the EDP Tourism Awards 2010, being singled out with an Outstanding Contribution to Tourism award. He had also been made an MBE for his contribution to the industry. Hunstanton town clerk Lisa Powell said: “The whole town is in total shock, they really can’t believe it.

“He was such a well-known figure in Hunstanton, people really respected and looked up to him – to lose that, it’s knocked the town sideways.”

Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk council, said: “It’s come as a real shock and a real blow. I had a long conversation with him on Sunday when he rang up with quite a few ideas.

“That summed him up, he was really he was a man of the future, always having ideas and wanting to see them happen.

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“He had as much ambition for West Norfolk as he did for his own business.”

Richard Searle was born in 1944, the son of Geoffrey Searle, whose parents William and Alice founded Searles in 1910.

Joining the family business at 16, he helped to oversee more than four decades of growth at the family holiday resort between Hunstanton and Heacham.

Working in the manager’s office, Mr Searle took on a number of roles in the business as a teenager, before being made manager at 21.

The same year – 1966 – Mr Searle married Linda, who was also to play an “instrumental” role in the business until her death in 2009.

Back then, Mr Searle said in a recent EDP interview, caravan parks were still pretty basic and in their infancy.

“Caravan parks were not looked on as businesses. They were not held in high regard.

“But the business grew every year as more people wanted to come.

“We had a fair bit of acreage of land which was used for grazing that we gradually converted into caravan park pitches.”

When asked about the holiday industry’s prospects in Norfolk, Mr Searle described himself as “bullish”.

“I regularly visit other facilities, hotels, attractions around Norfolk,” he said. “They are all doing the job properly.

“The nice thing is they seem to be building on the Norfolk experience.

“We don’t rush too much. Generally Norfolk seems a nice place to be, and nobody is spoiling that at the moment.”

Mr Searle’s wife, Linda, passed away suddenly 18 months ago on a holiday in Gran Canaria.

He leaves behind his three children Paul, who is managing director of Searles; Andrew and Jo, and grand children Eleanor and Oliver.