Nature’s Paradise

Nature’s Paradise

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William Wordsworth described the Lake District as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath found’ and residents of Nepgill Park have certainly found their own little slice of nature’s paradise, just a few minutes away from the famous writer’s childhood home. Nepgill Park enjoys a peaceful rural setting in the quiet village of Bridgefoot, a few miles from the beautiful market towns of Cockermouth (William Wordsworth’s birthplace) and Keswick.

The park was originally established by a local man, Leo Smith, back in the 1960’s. Nepgill’s current owners, Kevin and Marcia Morgan, bought the park in 1987 from Kevin’s brother, which worked out to be perfect timing for both. “My brother wanted to sell up and move into the holiday industry,” explains Kevin. “Meanwhile, I was getting tired of flying all over the world in my job as an electronics engineer and wanted to keep my feet on the ground for a while. Nepgill represented the chance to build something for my family where I could, everyday, appreciate what I had achieved and enjoy a different pace of life.” Since taking over Nepgill, Kevin and Marcia haven’t looked back and under their careful ownership, the park is now double the size, with 56 residential plots, seven rental flats and cottages and 81 residents.

ABOVE: Nepgill's owners, Kevin & Marcia Morgan, bought the pakr in 1987.

ABOVE: Nepgill's owners, Kevin & Marcia Morgan, bought the pakr in 1987.

Daughter, Mel Wykes, joined the family business in 2016 to help out in the busy park office. Unusually for a residential park, Nepgill enjoys a diverse population due to the fact that the only age stipulation is that residents need to be over 18. “The park has a great community of working, semi-retired and retired residents,” says Mel. “There is quite a mix of ages with younger people, especially, renting out our flats and cottages. Nepgill is very much focused around its people and  building that community spirit that can be so hard to find these days. Almost everyone here gets involved in life on the park and supports our green projects.” Nestled within a quiet corner of the spectacular Lake District National Park, it’s no surprise that the area’s natural beauty is an integral part of the park’s development. In fact, the Morgans have excelled in creating a park with a focus on providing a peaceful, natural environment for both residents and wildlife to enjoy. Nepgill Park enjoys an abundance of wildlife including deer and red squirrels, with views across fields to the beautiful Lakeland fells. Over the years, many hundreds of metres of hedgerows and trees have been planted and nurtured, and a pond and wildlife area created for residents to enjoy. The pond is currently home to many ducks and ducklings, as well as being a magnet for other birds, aquatic species and amphibians. The local red squirrels are well loved (and fed) by residents, who generously provide many well-stocked nut boxes in their gardens for these regular and much admired little visitors.

 

HONEY BEES
Natural paradise 6Nepgill’s exceptional commitment to the environment was recognised last autumn, when it was named as a 2018-19 winner of the prestigious Gold level David Bellamy Conservation Award. The park received three extra commendations from Professor Bellamy for its work on protecting honey bees, managing hedgerow habitats, and its extensive wild flower plantings. “We were absolutely thrilled to be presented with the David Bellamy Award last year,” says Mel. “It’s recognition of all the hard work that my parents and the residents have put in over the years to make Nepgill such a naturally beautiful and environmentally-friendly place to live. Everyone who visits the park comments on how peaceful it is, tucked away in our own little corner between the mountains and the sea.”

FAMILY VISION
Kevin says that the family’s vision for Nepgill has always been about “quality over quantity.” The residential homes are spread over a nine-acre site but careful landscaping and generous green areas mean that the park feels very spacious and far removed from the grid layout of traditional parks. A mixture of single and twin homes, many from Lissett Homes and Prestige Homeseeker, encircle traditional stone cottages and barn conversions, which are available to let. Nepgill Park also includes Millbanks Court, a newer development of twin homes with sett-stone driveways and adjacent garages. The park is unique in that its 12-month license for residential living has been granted in perpetuity. For the future, the family intends to develop Nepgill ’s environmental projects and is establishing a working ‘beekeeper’ team to manage the park’s own hives. They are also thinking ahead and are keen for residents to embrace the benefits of electric vehicles. Mel is currently exploring the best options for electric charging points. “It’s important to anticipate tomorrow’s needs,” says Mel. “We’re keen to stay ahead and also have plans to expand in some way.” Dad, Kevin concurs: “We don’t want to over-burden Mel for the future but there’s still lots to do here, even after 30 years. Marcia and I haven’t got any plans to retire for a while yet!”

Nepgill Park
Tel. 01900 826582
www.nepgillpark.com

 

Practising What They Preach

Practising What They Preach

Practising What They Preach main picIt’s hard to imagine a more perfect, unspoilt location to spend your retirement years than Pant Mawr Residential Park; nestled in a secluded, wooded valley above the pretty town of Harlech, amongst the stunning scenery and wildlife of the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. A select development of just 29 homes for the over 50s, retired and semi-retired, Pant Mawr started life in 1955 as a caravan park. Acquired by Neil Collis and his family in 2004, the park achieved a change of licence, two years later, to become a residential park. Since then, under Neil’s careful ownership and management, Pant Mawr has won numerous awards including Park of the Year in 2013. “My aim for Pant Mawr has always been to operate a park that I would be happy for my family to live on,” says Neil. “In fact I do! I live at the entrance to the park and actively run it myself, only employing one part time gardener and occasional construction contractors. Residents become friends here and we all feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.” Pant Mawr is in the final stages of development and there is just one plot still to be sold. The residents of the current 28 homes enjoy truly spectacular views of the Rhinog mountain range, the golden sands of Tremadog Bay and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Harlech Castle. The prestigious Royal St David’s Golf Club is just minutes away. Neil has made every effort to ensure that the park and its homes harmonise with the exceptional surroundings. Traditional dry-stone walls constructed by local craftsmen add character and, the landscaping complements the natural beauty of the Park’s woodland setting. “Pant Mawr means ‘Great Hollow’ in English,” explains Neil, “but the park is much more peaceful than its name might suggest. Residents can relax in a very private and secure location, surrounded by mature trees and fields, along with all kinds of wildlife. Living in Pant Mawr really does represent a special opportunity to live life to the full in a unique place.” However, running a park, regardless of its enviable location, still brings its challenges. “In 2014, the Welsh Government introduced its own Mobile Homes Act, which is quite different from the one in England,” says Neil. “Some of the legislation is proving particularly challenging to park operators and certain parts are subject to a current judicial review in the High Court.”

PARK LEGISLATION

Practising What They Preach pic 4The main differences between the park legislation in England and Wales is that in Wales, the park fee can only increase by the much lower rate of CPI, instead of RPI in England. A manager or owner of a Welsh park has to pass a fi t and proper person test and park licenses have to be renewed every five years, which means much closer monitoring by the Local Authority that issues the license. This is great news for residents and undoubtedly helps to protect them from unscrupulous park owners but such rigorous rules can cause extra administrative headaches for upstanding members of the industry. Following a public consultation on the park homes commission rate, currently 10%, the Welsh Government recommended a phased reduction in the rate and has commissioned further financial analysis to determine how to action this change. The result is likely to mean higher park fees. With just one plot on the site remaining, any changes are unlikely to impact too forcefully on Pant Mawr. The buyer of the final plot is able to design their own home. All of the homes on the park are different models from Omar, ranging in size from 40 x 20 to 45 x 20 feet. Each home benefits from mains water and drainage, LPG central heating, an individual block-paved driveway and turfed garden with shed, as well as telephone and satellite TV connection. “We try to take care of everything for our residents so their move here is as relaxed as possible,” says Neil. “Attention to detail makes all the difference in providing them with comfort and peace of mind.”

CLOSE LINKS

Practising What They Preach pic 5Neil and the residents of Pant Mawr also like to give back to the wider community. The park enjoys close links with the small town of Harlech and its many amenities and independent shops, just a few minutes walk away. The local swimming pool is community-owned and receives great financial support, as well as volunteer staff, from Pant Mawr. The Welsh Air Ambulance is also well supported by the park and its residents. With Pant Mawr almost complete, Neil is content to spend his days looking after the residents and ensuring their continued enjoyment of the exceptional surroundings. “There are no plans at the moment to expand the park or invest elsewhere,” says Neil. “Pant Mawr is a little slice of heaven in North Wales… I can’t imagine ever wanting to be anywhere else.”

 

Royal Roots

Royal Roots - Warfield Park

royal roots main picAscot, Sunninghill, Wentworth… this leafy corner of Berkshire boasts some of the most picturesque countryside and expensive real estate in Britain but it is also home to one of the longest established park home estates in the country, Warfield Park. Few people today, wandering through Warfield Park’s scenic rural parkland dotted with modern park homes, could imagine the colourful history of the park on the outskirts of Bracknell. First established in Tudor times, the land was formerly part of Windsor Great Park, welcoming Kings, Queens and illustrious figures from history over the centuries. The estate was sold to Archie MacLaren in 1939, and his son, Captain Ian MacLaren, subsequently set up Warfield as a residential caravan site in 1947. Today, Warfield Park is overseen by the MacLaren Trust and has evolved into one of the most desirable residential parks in the UK. The 92 acres of wooded parkland now feature 509 park homes on spacious plots that harmonise with the spectacular surroundings, with the majestic Wellingtonia trees planted by forroyal roots pic 3mer owner Lord Ormathwaite’s wife, Lady Jane Walsh, still in situ from the late 19th century. “Warfield Park’s philosophy has always been to site high quality homes sympathetically within the natural surroundings, and to preserve the environment for years to come,” explains Nikki Collas, Development and Projects Coordinator for Warfield Park. “We don’t believe in cramming in row after row of homes, and instead site them in a sylvan and non-linear fashion around winding roads and our magnificent trees.” 434 of the homes at Warfield Park are privately owned but according to Nikki, no two homes look the same because of the unique way the plots are sited on the park and the fact that new residents are encouraged to design bespoke homes. The team at Warfield work with a number of different manufacturers including Lissett Homes, Aspire Leisure & Park Homes, Prestige and Homeseeker, and Tingdene. Nikki says: “We are known for our plot sizes being significantly larger and more private than most other park home estates.

Most homes have gardens and garages. We also landscape the new gardens so they look nice before residents move in, and to keep with our theme of preserving the natural environment.” Apart from its history and setting, one of the most interesting features of Warfield Park is that its remaining 75 homes are rental properties, offered on 6 month Assured Shorthold Tenancies. Not surprisingly, in a location that can offer residents a short commute to London, demand for these rental homes is high. Many homes also attract families as this is one of the few parks to offer no lower age limit on ownership / rental and where children (and up to three well-behaved pets!) are also welcome. “Warfield Park invest heavily in our rental properties and the vast majority of our homes are new or fully refurbished,” explains Nikki. “This prolongs the life of our homes, improves comfort, and reduces energy prices for the tenants. We are proud that we do not have a boiler older than 5 years old in any of our rental properties, many ofwhich also have improved thermal insulation and a multi-layer render coating or low maintenance wall covering (Canexel cladding), which complies with British Standard 3632.” Warfield Park has won many accolades including the Social Responsibility Award in the National Energy Efficiency and Healthy Homes Awards in 2017. Homes are covered under GoldShield warranties and the park is a member of the BH&HPA.

Home to approximately 900 residents, Warfield Park is a thriving, multi-generational community with its own Community Hall, Hairdressers, Beauty Salon aroyal roots pic 8nd coin-operated Launderette. An active Community Association host a number of social, music and fitness classes in the hall daily, as well as regular weekend socials. A team of 18 staff is employed on site: 10 are office based and eight take responsibility for the extensive grounds outside. Warfield Park management and staff, led by Managing Director Barry Sumner, are committed to ensuring the park runs in tip-top condition and that the residents are happy in their homes. “We feel very strongly that it is important to have an open dialogue with our residents so they can voice ideas for improvements or amendments to the way we work,” says Nikki. “We hold bi-monthly Park Assembly meetings in the Community Hall to find out what the residents think we do well and what we can improve upon.” In 2018, Warfield Park saw a huge number of developments including electrical improvement works, several new homes, extended visitor parking, a redecoration of the Community Hall, and the laying of 7.6km of pipework for the supply of mains natural gas, which was completed just in time for Christmas 2018.

In collaboration with Affordable Warmth Solutions (AWS) and T & K Gallagher the new infrastructure was undertaken at zero cost to residents and should mean significantly less costs for them once the roll-out of boiler conversion carried out by Happy Energy is finished this Spring. Warfield Park has also recently undergone a complete re-brand with an attractive new logo and company website to appeal to potential new clients on the horizon. The team were delighted to finally receive planning permission in September 2017 for an extension that will mean 82 new homes. “Everyone at Warfield Park is very excited about the expansion,” says Nikki, “and we will be spending time working through more detailed plans during this year. We really want to replicate the character of the existing park in the new extension and preserving our heritage and outdoor space will continue to be top priority as we take Warfield Park into the future.”

 

 

A Going Concern

A Going Concern

a going concern 1

ABOVE: Red Deer Village at Stepps is only one of a handful of residential parks for the over 50s throughout Scotland.

Returning north of the border after many years living in southern England and abroad, brothers John and Ivan Hendry were surprised to find that Scotland’s park owners had not embraced the trend for luxury residential park living they had seen elsewhere. Red Deer Village at Stepps, on the doorstep of Glasgow, is still only one of a handful of retirement villages for the over 50’s throughout Scotland – and is the only one in North Lanarkshire. The Hendry family have owned the land since 2004 when they first purchased Red Deer Village Holiday Park as a going concern. Spotting a gap in the market fi ve years ago, the family vowed to introduce high quality residential homes to the A Going Concern 3region. Today, Red Deer Village is home to over 80 residents across 57 park homes on a beautifully landscaped site adjacent to the fi ve star rated holiday park. New homes are currently selling from a third phase of 30 park homes, and the park will eventually featurea total of 187 homes spread across five development phases. After five years of operation, John Hendry says he is surprised not to have seen more of this type of development in Scotland by now. “Whilst it’s very special to be only one of a handful of residential villages offering this concept, we would like to see an expansion of this sector in Scotland. We’re not scared of competition! It would be a good thing, as we are confi dent that our product is the very best it can be.” The Hendry brothers manage the park with the help of 14 staff, their children and sister Ashleigh, who is responsible for designing the interiors of all the luxury park homes at Red Deer Village.

RAISING AWARENESS

A Going Concern 6

ABOVE: In September 2018, the Scottish park celebrated the first anniversary of its bespoke community hub, built by Pathfinder Homes.

The homes in the park are sourced from leading supplier Stately Albion, and finished with unique touches by interior designer Ashleigh that reflect the park’s Scottish heritage. According to the team, a particular challenge is raising awareness that purchasing a home in a residential park like Red Deer is an attractive financial solution for downsizing in your 50s, rather than just a housing option for very elderly people. A strong sense of community shared amongst like-minded people is one of the key benefi ts of park home living and Red Deer Village is a prime example of a park that really does put its residential community at its heart. In September 2018, the Scottish park celebrated the fi rst anniversary of its custom-built community hub, a £450k building created by Pathfi nder Homes, and the fi rst of its kind in the UK.

MEETING HUB

A Going Concern 4

ABOVE: The homes int he park are sourced from leading supplier Stately Albion. Pictured Stately Albion Kensington.

“The hub has become the focus of the park,” says John Hendry. “We have left what goes on here in terms of entertainment and socialising entirely up to the residents – it’s their space, and I think they have done a great job!” The hub is a completely bespoke building with a comfortable interior and outside decked area. Inside, there is a cosy fire, sofas, coffee area, luxury soft furnishings, toilets, and several individual rooms and offi ces. The hub is the meeting point for a wide range of resident groups and activities each week, and local MSP Fulton MacGregor even holds a regular surgery here. “We had an office type building here before but it was nothing like the hub,” says John. “This really is a luxurious, state of the art facility, and we feel it’s a real asset to the park overall.” According to John, as well as being justifiably popular with residents, the hub is also proving to make sound financial sense. “Close to half a million pounds was a signifi cant investment for our business and the hub took almost two years to come to fruition. However, since it’s launch, there is a marked increase in business, with more residents downsizing to a new lifestyle on our park.”

A Going Concern 9

ABOVE: Red Deer Village takes its eco-credentials seriously and the park has won numerous Silver BH&HPA David Bellamy Conservation Awards, and has achieved Gold for the last three years.

WIDER COMMUNITY
Giving back to the wider community is also central to life at Red Deer Village. Supported by the Hendry family, the park residents have raised many hundreds of pounds for charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, with coffee mornings, sponsored activities and their Christmas Light Switch On Extravaganza. The park also takes its responsibility for their smallest residents seriously too. Over time, Red Deer Village has picked up numerous Silver BH&HPA David Bellamy Conservation Awards and has achieved Gold for the last three years. The park has a full time team of in-house gardeners who plant honey bee friendly plants and native British trees, as well as incorporating many wild hedgerow areas into its landscaping. There are two rainwater ponds on the park, which are chemical free and home to numerous toads, frogs, newts, dragonfl ies, birds, and fish. The park has even created a fox den in the waste stone yard. Ivan Hendry says: “David Bellamy believes you can live or holiday at a park which is both attractive to look at and which contributes towards bio diversity. Our conservation projects help to maintain that all-important habitat, and minimise any threat to the natural world through sustainable and eco-friendly development.”

 

Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction Title Pic

Customer Satisfaction

Greens Park homes are snapped up on recommendation…

With a career spanning some 35 years, Bill Green has seen a lot of changes in the residential parks industry but like all successful park owners he knows that customer satisfaction is key. Bill explains: “I always say to prospective purchasers, ‘Don’t ask me, my job is to sell homes. Go and have a walk around the park and chat with the residents to find out how they feel about living here.’ The people who live on your park are the best advertisement for your business.” As a young man, Bill spent many years working in Canada before returning to the UK and investing in rental parks. Today, Greens Park Homes owns two residential park home estates: the Wolds Retreat in Lincolnshire, and Pine Hill in Cambridgeshire. An exclusive, luxury estate for the over 50s, Green’s flagship park, Wolds Retreat, is set in 40 acres of beautifully-landscaped Customer Satisfaction - Bill Greengrounds in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds. Tranquil and scenic, the surrounding countryside is full of outstanding natural beauty and wildlife, and is popular with walkers, cyclists and bird watchers. The Roman town of Caistor is situated just a couple of miles away and provides many visitor attractions, shops, restaurants, fishing, and a choice of golf courses. Bill originally bought the site as a holiday lodge park 15 years ago but decided to apply for planning permission for a change of use to residential after repeated requests from customers wanting permanent homes. “It took over a year to get the planning permission in place,” explains Bill. “Our original application was refused and following a visit by the Secretary of State, and a number of agreed conditions, we were granted the licence.”

MINIBUS SERVICE

Two years of re-development later and the Wolds is now a shining example of a park planned with the customer very much in mind. At the centre of the park, a three-acre carp fishing lake is a popular attraction and there is a Customer Satisfaction Title Picminibus service to Caistor (one of the conditions of the planning permission) for residents. “We have a large site here but have deliberately chosen not to cram in as many homes as possible,” says Bill. “We have permission for 60 homes but the land could easily take 100 or more. We wanted to retain a feeling of space and privacy. On a lot of parks the homes are laid out in rows, which feels like an army camp! Our plots are twice the size of those at most other parks and dotted around the parkland in a freeform and natural way.” Out of the 60 homes, 25 are already inhabited, and the remaining 35 pitches are available for sale, including five show homes.

STEADY STREAM

Customer Satisfaction 4“We are very lucky to have a steady stream of enquiries,” says Bill, “but the attractiveness of the park really sells itself. Each home has a block-paved driveway for two cars and many have sheds, decking and even garages. Visitors to the park are always surprised at the size of the properties saying they are larger and better equipped than their traditional brick-built bungalows. All homes on site are also set up for mains utilities, which puts the control back into the resident’s hands and helps keep their expenditure low. This way is more economical for the home owner and the park owner too.” Having pre-booked slots with the major manufacturers is a key selling point, which expedites the process for buyer and seller. “There can be as much as a year long wait on many parks,” explains Bill, “but we have moved a cash buyer in as little as six weeks from home order before now. On average, from point of deposit to moving in date is two to three months for most of our residents.” Greens’ second park is Pine Hill, situated in a pretty location in open countryside between St Ives and Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire.

This site has been in the Green family for 50 years, originally being used for temporary accommodation for Council tenants. 15 years ago, Bill and his four sons, who all work in the family business, set upon a complete renovation of the park including new roadways, the provision of mains utilities, and major landscaping. Pine Hill now boasts 48 residential park homes; all are occupied and are quickly snapped up on the rare occasion that one is up for sale. Greens Park Homes is currently in negotiations to purchase a third park in the East Customer Satisfaction 5Anglian area and Bill says that they are always looking for interesting opportunities to either invest in existing parks, or land that is ripe for housing development. Like most Park Operators, Bill expresses some frustration with the limitations of the current planning framework and legislation. “The parks industry is steadily being cleaned up and rogue operators are thankfully few and far between nowadays,” says Bill, “but the negative profile of parks in the public eye still needs some work.” “Sadly, it’s a lot easier to get permission to develop holiday parks with many unwitting customers buying ‘holiday homes’, mistakenly thinking that they can live in them all year round. Making it more difficult to open residential parks, means not only a shortage of homes for the 50+, but prevents the mainstream housing market freeing up larger ‘brick and mortar homes’ for families and younger people. Things are moving forwards, slowly, but there is still a long way to go,” adds Bill.

Ambitious Planning

ambitious planningAmbitious Planning

Doncaster-based park homes operator Serenity Parks might be a relative newcomer to the industry but they have ambitious plans for the future.
The Company was established in 2016 by Directors Gary Burns and Andrew Wilson, who already co-own a successful and longestablished civil engineering business – the NMC Group. After many years of working on engineering projects that included residential and holiday park developments, Gary and Andrew decided to take the plunge and invest in their own parks. “Through our civil engineering contracts we have long been involved with infrastructure and development works for many residential park home estates throughout the country,” explains Gary. “Given the steady increase in this market and the changing perceptions of park home living, we identified a strong opportunity to diversify our business interests and this has proved successful.” Gary and Andrew launched Serenity Parks by taking the opportunity to acquire two existing residential parks in Cheshire that were ripe for re-development.

POPULAR CHOICE

Ambitious planning 2Chester’s Croft is situated in the leafy Stockport suburb of Cheadle Hulme, and was acquired by Serenity Parks in November 2016. Its highly desirable location, just over two miles from Stockport itselfand seven miles from Manchester, makes it a popular choice with residents. The park offers plenty of green outdoor space, as well as excellent travel links, including two nearby rail stations and the ease of Manchester Airport just a few minutes drive away. Since taking on Chester’s Croft, Gary and Andrew have completely redeveloped the park and its infrastructure, investing heavily in surfacing, drainage, curbing and landscaping. They have bought back a number of plots in order to upgrade with new homes for sale. Out of a current 47 plots at Chester’s Croft, just three remain available. Serenity Park’s second Cheshire-based development, Alvanley Park, has also undergone a major upgrade. Many new homes have been added to the site and just one remains for sale out of a total of 40. The park sits in a prestige location in pretty Cheshire countryside and next to National Trust woodland, but with easy access to amenities in the nearby market town of Frodsham.
Both Chester’s Croft and Alvanley Park offer high-end, one and two bedroom park homes from leading manufacturers including Prestige, Oakgrove, Stately Albion and Omar. Both parks cater exclusively for over-55s and offer residents a thriving social scene and a supportive environment in which to spend their later years.
Gary and Andrew did not found Serenity Parks with the intention of just ‘owning parks.’ For them, the business represents an opportunity to create and develop communities.
“We really believe that moving to a park home should not just be a decision of where to live, but also of how,” explains Gary. “We pride ourselves on the lifestyle we enable our residents to lead. By providing attractive, accessible and well-equipped homes, in an environment that actively facilitates positive interaction, we create the perfect park home environment with a real community feel.”

SAFETY AND SECURITY

“Our homes offer an increased level of safety and security compared to city centre or suburban living, as well as encouraging residents to manage a more independent way of life in their later years. When you own a park and see new residents coming to make their home here, you can really see the positive difference in people after just a few months living amongst like-minded new friends.” Serenity Parks was born out of an absolute belief in the huge potential of park home living and its tremendous benefits, not only for park residents, but also for park owners, developers, and local authorities.Gary says: “There has been a seismic change in perceptions of park home living, especially among the over 50s who are placing more importance on leisure and the freedom that park home living can offer. The recent changes to housing policy also mean that residential park homes are now accepted as a dedicated form of housing, which gives us greater confidence in planning policy for more plots.” It’s clear that the tides are turning favourably for park home living but Serenity Parks believe much more needs to be done to educate the Government and local authority planners about the wider benefits of residential park home communities.
With this in mind, Gary and Andrew have created a detailed resource document that they are proactively sharing with local authority planning departments that explains the social, economic and environmental advantages of the park home trend.

HOUSING SUPPLY

Ambitious planning 4Gary says the potential saving to the public purse from park home developments is massive, not to mention the solution they can offer to aid the national housing supply crisis.
“Cheshire, where we already have two parks, is an area of really high demand for homes and there is simply not enough accommodation to go around,” says Gary. “Many areas of the country have the same situation and frustratingly, I believe that not enough is being done to pass off sites for development.”
Gary and Andrew see this challenge as a unique opportunity to change out-dated misconceptions about the park home lifestyle.
With two successful re-developments under their belt in the Northwest, Gary and Andrew are now turning their attentions to other opportunities.
“We are interested in developing more high-end parks in the North but our interest remains national,” says Gary.
“We are ready and able to invest in redevelopment opportunities where we can transform tired sites to offer prestige park home communities in desirable areas. We have plans to double the size of our portfolio year on year over the next three years and promote the Serenity Parks brand UK-wide.”

No Quick Fix

no quick fixNo Quick Fix

I will start with a confession. Wisper it quietly, but there is no ‘quick fix’ that will instantly fill your holiday park with customers, especially in the quieter months. That magic button for your website – the one that will send bookings through the roof is, well, I’m afraid just a myth…
So, it’s time for a reality check. The only way to ensure your park is best placed to turn those clicks and enquiries into bookings and sales is to have a proper strategy in place. It can be really frustrating to see large volumes of traffic coming to your website but so few of those continuing to book their holidays. Abandoned bookings and poor conversions rates are an obvious sign that all is not well somewhere in the online booking process.

JIGSAW PIECES

Whether you own a large group of holiday parks or you’re just starting out with a few touring pitches, your online booking platform is arguably the most important piece of the jigsaw. You can spend thousands of pounds per month on marketing but, if it’s all let down by a process that inhibits the booking process then you’re wasting all your hard-earned cash. Online booking systems vary greatly from one another - and the most expensive one may not necessarily be the best for your park. You need a system that not only fulfils your requirements from a park management perspective but is, crucially, easy for your customers to navigate and book online.

It is too easy to forget the customer booking journey with parks too often spending more time focusing on the back-office functionality of an online booking system. But these online booking steps are, potentially, far more important than whether the system can produce all your different financial reports. Most systems (but not all) on the market will come with a set of online booking steps that will be the link between your website and booking system. It is crucial that you choose a system that has booking steps that are clear, straightforward and easily navigable for your customers.Why not take the journey yourself, as a customer would (we recommend trying this on a mobile too). If you find yourself getting frustrated then multiply this by the average number of people who visit your website and you’ll soon see why so many people abandon their bookings.

GDPR COMPLIANCE

hate to be the bearer of bad news but complying with GDPR wasn’t just sending out a few re-subscribe emails to your database at the end of May. It’s fair to say that it’s had (and will continue to have) a big impact on the holiday park industry. One thing’s for sure – it’s already had a big impact on the online booking sector, with many changes having been made to systems to comply as best they can with the new regulations. A cornerstone element of GDPR is customer data. Your online booking system is, potentially, storing thousands of customer records, accounts and, in some cases, payment details too.

Do you know for sure where all that customer data is? Is it stored directly on the computer in your office – and is this vulnerable to hackers? Or is the data stored in the cloud? Is it encrypted to the highest level? Are your online booking steps collecting marketing information even from those who don’t complete a booking? If so, what’s being done with all that data? All these are vitally important questions you should ask your current provider or ask yourself before changing to a new system as you will be liable, should the worst happen.If your online booking is the final part of the jigsaw, then getting your customers into that booking process, is the first. How do you attract the right sort of customer to your park to begin with?
Before you commit to spending hundreds or thousands of pounds per month on a Google AdWords PPC campaign or such like you need to ask yourself one fundamental question – who are your customers? How old are they? Where do they live? What interests do they have? What do they spend on an average holiday? Once you have a clear idea of the people you’re targeting then you’re more likely to achieve the desired result. Depending on the sort of customer you’re targeting, your marketing can be grouped into various activities, including your website, email, social media, pay per click (PPC) or printed media. All of this will filter back to the online booking process.

KEY WORDS

A good website that’s well optimised for all the relevant keywords is certainly a good start and will be integral for just about everything you do but it will not, necessarily, be the huge driver of traffic on its own, that it once was. Things are ever-changing in the world of the web and the level of competition has gone from stiff to fierce, especially in popular holiday destinations such as the South West of England.

That being said, there are some key things to consider with your current website to help it work best for you:

• Does it stand out from the crowd? Does it have a ‘wow’ factor?
• Is it quick and easy to use on a mobile device?
• Do the images properly showcase your setting and accommodation range?
• Are your CTAs (calls to action) clear and consistent – ‘book now’ ‘check prices & availability’ ‘call now’

How much do you spend on your marketing and what sort of Return on Investment (ROI) are you getting? Do you know? If the answer to this last question is a resounding ‘no’ then it’s time to take stock of your current activity…and think again. If, for whatever reason, you are not able to apportion revenue against your marketing then you are working with one hand behind your back.

MEASURE SUCCESS

E-commerce tracking really is the cornerstone of measuring a campaign’s success, whether it be a promotional email or a Google AdWords campaign. Without this knowledge it’s almost impossible to know if what you’re doing is right. So many people are obsessed with the volume of clicks and traffic that a campaign sends to their website but this can often be very misleading. Always think – quality over quantity! You’re aiming for ‘qualified’ clicks; those that come from an audience who are in-tune and interested in your product, not those who may have clicked your banner ad by mistake. To this end, your external marketing should follow the same premise. As mentioned, know your audience and aim your marketing at this focused bunch of people, don’t waste your time and money on a scattergun approach because it simply won’t work.

Pitched
Tel. 01726 418118
Pitched.co.uk

Planning For A Successful Succession

Planning For A Successful Successionplanning for a successful succession

Planning and managing a family succession can be fraught with emotion and impact on relationships away from the business, so if passions are running high or it is difficult to take the challenging decisions needed for a successful handover, Howe recommends bringing in outside help to remove emotion from the decision-making process and help all parties focus on making choices that benefit the long term health of the business.
Recognising this challenge is what led Andrew to join forces with other industry experts to create Bridge Leisure Management in 2008. 10 years on, the company provides day-to-day management of holiday parks for owners who want to successfully step away from their business.
He says: “As professional managers we can focus on the park, its success and development. We don’t have an emotional attachment so we can focus on what is good for the business and good for the owner.” Discussing the transfer of the business from one generation to the next can often unearth unresolved conflicts between family members, such as arguments over business direction, perceived family favouritism, or lack of confidence in abilities.
Planning4ASS2Rather than confronting and discussing these families are more likely to bury their feelings and beliefs, eroding trust and increasing their stresses during the succession process.
At this point, outside support can be invaluable in helping the process of handing control from one generation to the next, when any changes made by the younger group keen to make its mark can be seen as a criticism of the work done previously by family.
“We work alongside families to help get the best from everyone and maintain an absolute focus on the business Holiday park owners are spending so much time working that they are failing to plan for a successful retirement. Andrew Howe, chief executive of Bridge Leisure Management says that one of the biggest mistakes park owners make is to ignore questions of succession.
He says: “If your goal is to handover to family members, there can be many tricky questions to answer, made more difficult by the close relationships of those involved.
“For example, what if the next in line is not ready, not up to the task of running your business, or if there are several family members vying to take over a small park where there’s really just one job to fill?” Howe’s belief is that successful succession planning must start years in advance so business owners can identify and address the weak spots and potential problems of handing over to family members.

DEVELOP AND THRIVE

By clarifying the skills that your business needs to develop and thrive, you can decide who is best placed to take over responsibility for running the park and put in a place a training or coaching plan to account for areas where they are lacking. Giving family members a long-term view of the park’s potential can help them understand what is expected of them for a successful
handover, but for park owners who have grown their operations as the sole person in charge, it can be a difficult change in mindset to start having open and honest conversations about their business. Howe’s advice is to make family members responsible and accountable for the park’s growth by showing them the business challenges and future opportunities.and success. All parks are different and so our role is to find a management solution that works for each individual owner.” In many instances, holiday park owners may discover that their children don’t share their same enthusiasm for succession, and so their next step may be to look at selling.

EMOTIONAL TIES

AndrewHoweYet the emotional ties of a family business can often make this simply too difficult a decision; who wants to be the generation that sold the family business? Additionally, the commercial realities of a sale can create additional issues, especially when an owner has over-estimated the value of, and interest in, their business. Bridge Leisure worked with a caravan park owner who expected his son to take over when he retired. But after completing university, his son decided on a different career path. Says Andrew: “They thought of selling but were in for a shock when the agent’s guide price was far below what they expected and was at a level that the owner felt neither reflected his hard work nor the true value of the park.” Their response was to bring in Bridge Leisure to take over the park operations in return for a management fee and a bonus to grow the business, while the owner kept the profi ts and retained ownership of the park, ready to benefit from a future sale when profits and market conditions get better. “By bringing a degree of flexibility and freedom to the park owners, they could step away from park operations but still benefit from the true value of their business,” says Howe. “Wrestling with the ‘whys and wherefores’ of succession or a sale can put a stop to owners successfully retiring from their business, and making a decision on what next can be heartbreaking. “Putting a plan in place early, and taking control of the different options and outcomes, is the simplest way to make your next steps a success.”
Bridge Leisure Management
Tel: 01908 067 900
www.bridgeleisure.com

Balancing Act

Balancing Act - Security

BalancingAct

Security is a precarious balancing act for holiday park operators. Holiday makers arrive on site, ready to have a good time, ultimately taking away some precious memories when they set off for home, safe and sound and without incident. One of the greatest challenges each season is managing visitor expectations and enjoyment during peak periods.
Security measures need to be almost invisible until they needed with security staff, particularly, a reassuring presence for guests.

HARDWARE

Specialist suppliers like Ramtech completely understand that as a holiday park operator you need robust yet discreet security solutions that enhance the leisure experience you provide to your customers.
Ramtech’s alarm monitoring system is tailored to meet the specifi c challenges faced by the caravan and holiday park market, enabling you to offer additional peace of mind to your customers that their investment in their holiday homes and valuable contents is protected all year round.
“Our wireless alarm system provides reliable, effective security that also delivers a valuable additional selling point and revenue generation tool for your park. Once installed, the alarm systems can be operated and monitored by your own security teams, putting you in complete control,” says Ramtech’s Cat Widdowson.
BalancingAct2“We’re currently the trusted security system provider for over 200 parks that have over 100,000 holiday or residential park homes on their sites, including Bourne Leisure, Park Resorts, Parkdean and Park Holidays UK.”
Touring caravans left on sites, and even static caravans can be a target for thieves. All caravans manufactured in the UK since 1992 have a 17-digit vehicle identifi cation number (VIN) etched onto the vehicle chassis and windows. Mark your VIN number with a security marker inside cupboards and other places to help you identify your caravan if it’s stolen.
Although North Wales is one of the SAFEST PLACES to live, work and visit, the regional force works pro-actively to remind caravan owners and holidaymakers of these simple steps to help reduce chances of becoming a victim of crime including: • Immobilising the caravan with an approved clamping or locking system once on site.
• Fit a tracking device so the caravan can be traced if stolen • Fit a reliable alarm and always switch it on “Holiday park theft is becoming a big issue as caravans,lodges and holiday homes increasingly have more valuables in them,” agrees Roy Williams of security provider Crosby Intruder Alarms.
“It is commonplace these days to have two or more televisions, Sky boxes and other audio and video entertainment systems. It can be lucrative for a thief to target these units, particularly in the closed season when there is less chance of being disturbed.

LOCKDOWN

While alarms and CCTV can go some way in tackling crime on parks, often much simpler and inexpensive steps can be taken to prevent theft. One such product from Cardea Solutions – the Buggy Lock - is becoming widespread at holiday parks across the country. The device is designed for families and allows prams and essential transportation equipment such as scooters and bikes to be secured safely. Stores of agricultural equipment and often vehicles for maintenance use around the premises need to be kept secure. These can range in value but hold an appeal to criminals as items that are easily sellable. It is important for site owners to protect these items by storing them correctly and securely in locked buildings or compounds, with keys removed and stored in a safe place.Many caravan and holiday home parks suffer from some form of vandalism from time to time. Installing Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) can help to combat this problem. There is some very high quality CCTV equipment these days that doesn’t cost the earth that can provide clear images in both day and night situations. From an insurance point of view, commercial insurance is a two way street whereby insurers will do all they can to provide a safety net to protect a company’s assets and their ability to trade. In turn, insurers may provide clients with guidelines to adhere to which they hope will serve to limit the potential for claims. Holiday Parks are well accustomed to having the correct physical security in place, barriers, CCTV, alarms are all common to protect a park from traditional thefts. However the threat of a digital attack or loss is ever increasing in the modern world. With the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect it’s concerning that according to Government Statistics only 38% of businesses are even aware of this new data protection act. Unfortunately, we operate in a world where cyber attacks of one form or another have become a common part of everyday life – 46% of businesses reported a cyber security breach in 2017 (Source – UK Government Cyber Breaches Survey 2017).

INCREASED LEGISLATION

BalancingAct3This combination of increased regulation and more regular breaches means that it’s more important than ever that your business takes steps to protect itself in the digital world, even if you don’t operate online it’s likely that your systems are connected to the internet and therefore could be vulnerable. Most businesses in this sector will have an electronic booking system and/or hold customer data electronically; access control may also be digitalised. All of this could leave your business exposed to signifi cant costs and expenses and importantly loss of income, in the event of a system failure, fraudulent or not! Businesses should look at their IT infrastructure to ensure they have robust security in place to minimize the risk of a breach however it is not possible to guarantee any system is completely secure – user error or a determined hacker can often still cause a breach. Therefore, parks are recommended to look at Cyber Protection.
Commercial combined policies for holiday parks should provide an option to include the contents of the business, any holiday lets and the owners’ personal effects. At Towergate, for instance, an extension is available to cover plant and machinery used to maintain the property. In addition, it is understood that many sites, particularly those of a larger scale, will use agricultural or commercial vehicles, which can also be included on a combined policy. Insurance provider Leisuredays recently dealt with a report of eight break-ins at a holiday park in south east England during the closed season after thieves gained access in a vehicle and stole property from a number of holiday caravans. “We carried out a survey of the park and the park owner has increased security by installing a 24 hour security guard and a number plate recognition system,” explains Gareth Walker, head of Leisuredays Development. “We have always aimed to reward the security conscious parks with lower premiums. Many parks will employ a series of security measures, such as perimeter fencing, thick prickly hedging, CCTV, light sensors, guarded barriers and security lighting. It can be a tricky balancing act for park owners to protect their customers but also not create a heavily controlled environment.” Theft and vandalism cover is included as standard on all Leisuredays holiday caravan policies as well as cover for replacement locks and keys in the theft or damage. The company offers advice on safeguarding property, as well as supporting initiatives such as the Caravan Park Watch, where associations and parks work together to share information and develop crime prevention campaigns. We know you are busy. But, we cannot advise strongly enough to take the time out, and risk-assess the effectiveness of measures in place, to ensure and to be able to demonstrate that your park is as security-proof as possible

Homes For Life

HomesForLifeAmerican influences on a Lancashire group of residential parks...

A trip to Florida in 2003 with a group of fellow park owners proved pivotal to Michael and Julie Ward, owners of four residential park homes in Lancashire.
“We travelled to the States to enrol in two courses at the Disney Institute including ‘The Disney Approach To Quality Service’ and spent time visiting parks and manufacturers, including a park in Sebring,” Michael explains.
“At its centre was a huge leisure complex with swimming pools, tennis courts, a function suite, computer rooms… the park owners were promoting an active retirement and we were hugely inspired.”
This American park became the catalyst for Michael’s vision for a new development: Acresfield.
Acresfield Park opened in 2010, an exclusive development of just 43, easily maintained, two bedroomed, detached bungalow-style properties, specifically designed for the over 55’s. The park is ideally located close to the historic market town of Garstang, where residents can enjoy shopping, golf, fishing, bird watching, as well as beautiful fell, canal and riverside walks. Acresfield is also situated just 30 minutes from the brighter lights of Blackpool and the coast.
HomesForLife2Nevertheless, Acresfield residents need never leave the park as it provides everything they need for entertainment on-site. Four years ago Acresfield Health Club & Spa opened. The club boasts a 15m swimming pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, a state of the art gym, a multi purpose hall for dance and fitness classes, indoor bowls, badminton and table tennis. There is also a bistro, hair studio, and a spa with three luxurious treatment rooms.

Club Membership

The Club is open for membership to the general public, however fi rst time purchasers of new homes on Acresfi eld Park receive free membership and homeowners on the other parks receive highly discounted membership. Michael refers to Acresfi eld Park and its attendant Health Club & Spa as the ‘jewel in the Residential Parks portfolio crown’. He is justifi ably proud. Last year, Acresfi eld Park and its adjoining sister park, Wyre Vale, featured on a Channel 5 documentary series. The episodes featuring the parks attracted between 1.2 and 1.4 million viewers, and resulted in many converts to the park home lifestyle.

“The TV series really showcased park home living at its very best,” says Michael. “We were inundated with enquiries and I think that this is probably one of the best pieces aired on TV, which depicts the excellent sense of community which park home living affords.”
It’s not all gloss and no substance… the Ward family are committed to providing their residents with ‘homes for life’. The parks, and their homes have been developed with a constant regard for the fact that the British population is an ageing one. The family is not only keen to promote an active retirement for residents, but they have also taken steps to ensure that they are providing homes that are accessible for those who suffer from disabilities, or the infirm. “To meet this challenge we designed, in association with two leading park home manufacturers, Prestige and Stately Albion, the Acresfield collection of homes,” explains Michael. “The homes have been very subtly adapted with wider doorways and turning circles for wheelchairs. Walls have been strengthened so that grab rails can be fitted if required, now or in the future, and low threshold shower cubicles or wet rooms are fitted as standard.”
HomesForLife3The homes also come with a 24-hour emergency call system and each home is fitted with a key safe to assist emergency access. Care for the environment and resulting cost savings have also been taken into consideration in the design and installation of the homes. “All of the homes are economically heated by mains gas; additionally, some have solar panels with under fl oor heating,” says Michael. “They are incredibly energy efficient and exceed the British Standard. Homeowners are also free to purchase their utilities from the supplier of their choice to find the best deal possible.”

Award Winners

The Ward family purchased their first residential park home estate in 1968. Michael and Julie are the second generation, becoming involved in the business in 1985. Winning Residential Park Owners of the Year, an unprecedented three times, over the years, their Parks have also won numerous Gold David Bellamy Conservation Awards including a Special Distinction Award. Michael and Julie own and operate four residential parks, one Holiday Park and a Health Club & Spa with the help of their daughter Sophie and son Alex. Their parks are all located in Lancashire: Gawthorpe Edge Park in Burnley, Lodge Park, Wyre Vale and Acresfield Parks in Garstang, and Merlewood Country Park, which is situated in the picturesque village of Little Eccleston.
Together, the parks extend to some 475 pitches. The close proximity of the parks means that the family can take a very personal interest in their day-to-day operation. They are supported by a loyal team of almost 40 people, many of whom have worked on the parks for over 30 years. “We really understand the importance of offering a quality service to our homeowners,” says Michael. “In this day and age, people are eager to criticise and less keen to commend, which is why we are so proud of our multiple resident-nominated awards.” The Ward family believe strongly that park homes such as these represent the perfect solution for customers of a certain age. As the demand for park homes increases, Michael believes that the Government needs to change its attitude towards park living.
Residents recognise park homes as acceptable, affordable housing and it’s time that the powers-that-be did too,” says Michael. “Park homes are an important provision within the housing sector for an ageing population and offer considerable flexibility, energy efficiency and cost savings. Local authorities need further encouragement to allow parks to expand and new parks to develop.”