ST NEOTS' landmark Old Falcon Hotel could become shops, flats and a restaurant overlooking the River Great Ouse after its sale by the Bedford brewer Charles Wells to a Swavesey-based developer for a sum believed to be of the order of \u00A31million. The 16th century building now belongs to Tower View Limited, part of the Whitfield Group of companies. The company's intention is to create retail units or a restaurant development on the ground floor area with upper floors of the hotel to be converted to apartments. Additionally, there is the opportunity to create new residential units to the rear of the property, with a range of buildings to be designed with impressive views overlooking the river, selling agents DH Barford said. "We will be working closely with the conservation officer at Huntingdonshire District Council's planning department in order to ensure that the important historic characteristics and features of this Grade II Listed Building are retained." said Dennis Whitfield, the group's chairman. "Our approach will be to deal sensitively with the development and this scheme certainly fits in with our company's investment profile, a large proportion of which involves dealing with conservation projects." The Old Falcon's hotel business suffered from competition in recent years and had fallen into decline, though the ground floor bars continued to trade until early 2005. Barford's Phil Halmshaw said a total of 16 bids had been received for the building. He would not reveal the purchase price but said the guide price had been \u00A31million. The news of the sale of the Old Falcon follows on from the change in ownership of the former Dining Room restaurant, on the eastern facade of St Neots Market Square, which has been acquired and upgraded by national coffee shop operator Caff\u00E9 Nero. "These two unrelated transactions are very good news for St Neots town centre which, despite ongoing uncertainties in the national retail market, is going from strength to strength," Mr Halmshaw said.