A FAMOUS antique centre has been saved after the building’s new owner announced he is downgrading his grand hotel plans.

John de Bruyne purchased Townsford Mill earlier this year, and initially proposed to convert the whole site into a hotel, but he has reconsidered.

Now he wants to open a bed and breakfast instead, meaning Halstead Antiques Centre can remain at the site.

Mr de Bruyne decided the antique centre is too good to lose, but the town council will still be kicked out.

He told the Gazette as probably the biggest tourist attraction in the area it should stay.

“Originally, when I saw Townsford Mill advertised, I thought ‘Oh my God, that is the mill in Halstead’, and thought I had to have it really,” he said.

“I did want to turn the whole site into a hotel, but it is hard to tell if the area would support a hotel, and I didn’t really want to divide the rooms.

“You have to look in depth at situations like this, and the more I looked the more respect I had for James (Kilbey) and the way he runs the centre.

“There is no doubt it does bring people into the town.

“My business relies on tourism, and the antiques centre is one of the biggest tourism pulls in the town.

“We have to listen to what is happening, and what people want, and everyone supports the antique centre.”

With plans for a hotel dashed, Mr de Bruyne has reset his focus on turning the Townsford Mill house into a bed and breakfast.

Mr de Bruyne, who is originally from Colne Engaine, is hoping to use the site as an eight-bedroom bed and breakfast.

The mill site, valued at £895,000, is home to Dickens Restaurant, Halstead Antiques Centre and Halstead Town Council.

The antiques centre has been part of the site since it closed as a mill in 1982.

It attracts 40,000 customers per year.

Owner James Kilbey said: “We are very happy indeed.

“I have spoken to John on several occasions, and it is clear he is a man with ideas, and the energy and passion to push those ideas through.

“He has made it clear he supports us, and it seems we have very similar views on the site, and the future. John is looking at tourism in the town, and I would agree we are an important part of that.”