ALMOST 1 million people poured through the doors of Clacton Pier over the past 12 months - the same number as in the heyday of Butlins.

New equipment installed at the attraction at the end of August last year counted more than 930,000 visitors up to the last Bank Holiday weekend.

Pier director Billy Ball said it is a significant increase on previous years and has been put down to the additional all year round facilities provided for customers.

He added it has justified all the hard work and investment that had been put into the improvements, such as Discovery Bay Adventure Play and Skull Point Golf.

He said: “When Butlins was still operating in Clacton, the pier would get about 1 million visitors every year and that dropped to about 500,000 the first year after the holiday camp closed.

“Those attendances have never really recovered, and we have recently estimated them to be between 500,000 and 600,000 people in recent years.

“It is a major jump up to 930,000 and we must be doing something right.

“It certainly does not mean we have seen a similar rise in income because of all the increased costs, such as wages for the rise in the number of staff.

“However, the first step is to get people on to the pie.

“What we have achieved is more activity for the business and the right sort of vibrant atmosphere where people will then spend more money.”

Butlins opened in Clacton in 1938 and closed in 1983.

Mr Ball added the aim is to continue to improve the offer with other plans in the pipeline such as new rides and the revamp of the Jolly Roger building into a multi-purpose venue.

He said: “We have more facilities open all year round than ever before.

“We are satisfied with the performance, but we are not breaking any records yet.”

This weekend, the pier is hosting Armed Forces members and their families as well as veterans for a weekend of free fun.

A valid Forces ID card, or proof of service for veterans, needs to be produced at the ticket office and then each family will be given up to four free saver wristbands worth up to £60.

Live music and children’s entertainment have also been arranged for Saturday and Sunday and military vehicles will be on display.