TURNING TIDES

TURNING TIDES

LEEDONS RESIDENTIAL PARK IS THE FLAGSHIP in Allens Caravans residential portfolio.

Planners are favourable to Park Home applications reports Jane Herbert...

Back in the mid-1930’s, when auto trader Bill Allen decided to display touring Allens Caravans on his garage forecourt in Wolverhampton to fill some empty space., He could never have foreseen that Auto Selling Cars would grow into the huge success Allens Caravans is today. But times were changing, and caravan sales took off. Bill’s curiosity was piqued. Just a few years later in the 1950’s, with business growing, Bill moved the company to the historic stately home of Wootton Hall inWarwickshire’s Henley- in-Arden, which is still Allens Caravans headquarters today. Here, he hosted the first-ever Annual Midlands Caravan Exhibition, and its success made Bill realise that he was onto something. In the 1960s he travelled to the USA where he was inspired not just by the trend for caravan holidays, but also by the increasing popularity of Allens Caravans for all-year residential living. Bill returned toWootton Hall convinced of the potential growth for residential caravan parks in the UK, and with caravan sales soon outstripping car sales, Allens Caravans was born. Today, Allens Caravans is one of the country’s leading Park Operators with a portfolio of 13 Holiday and Residential Parks across the Midlands and Wales. The business, which now employs around 160 staff, is still managed by Bill’s grandchildren and other family members, with joint Managing Directors, Joe Folkes and James Allen, heading up the team.

THRIVING BUSINESS
“Allens Caravans has come a long way since its foundation in the 1930’s,” explains Joe Folkes. “But at heart we are still a thriving family business, the owners of which are not just faceless names, but third generation working Directors who can be found at our Head Office or on the Parks looking after the day-to-day running of the company,” he continues. “As a whole team, we ensure the highest possible standards are delivered at our Parks, for the benefit of our customers,” he adds. “We are so proud of the excellent reputation we have built with those customers, and also our colleagues within the caravan industry.” Currently, five of Allens Caravans 13 Parks are residential: Broadway Park with 82 residents and Leedons Residential Park with 129 residents in Worcestershire; Wootton Hall in Warwickshire with 290 residents; Pendeford Hall inWolverhampton with 62 residents; and Overstone Solarium Residential Park with 80 residents in Northamptonshire. Typically, Allens Caravans Parks have all been chosen for their stunning locations in the great British countryside. Residents of both Wootton Hall and Pendeford Hall can enjoy the outstanding surrounding scenery of two former historic country estates. Similarly, Overstone Solarium is set amongst 115 acres of beautiful woodland – the perfect spot to relish in the peace and quiet of retirement.


GAMES ROOM
Both Broadway Park and Leedons Residential Park are situated just ten minutes’ walk from the charming and picturesque village of Broadway in the prime location of the Cotswolds. With a scenic setting nestled beneath the Cotswold escarpment and overlooked by Broadway Tower, the Parks are blessed with plentiful wildlife and both Broadway and Leedons hold the prestigious Gold David Bellamy Conservation Award. Residents at the two sister Parks also benefit from an enviable array of facilities including an indoor swimming pool, a three rink bowling green, tennis court, social hall, launderette and games room. Leedons Residential Park is the newer development of the two, and the flagship in Allens Caravans residential portfolio. Originally acquired in the 1980’s, Leedons has been the focus of considerable expansion over the years and several £million investment both in its infrastructure and leisure facilities. A proportion of the Park is devoted to holiday home ownership (ten months of the year) but the focus is on delivering Residential Park Homes for the over 50s semi-retired and retired. Phase three of the Leedons development has recently been released and work is currently continuing on around 40 plots. Phase four is already in the planning with more luxury homes with exceptional countryside views coming soon. Prospective residents can choose from a variety of manufacturers including Willerby, Omar, Stately, Lissett, Homeseeker/Prestige, Tingdene and Pathfinder. Each home has its own garden area, a shed or greenhouse, and parking for up to two cars adjacent to the property. Pets are welcome on site and amongst the team of eight staff, there are resident Park Managers and Wardens for peace of mind.

Despite Allens Caravans obvious growth, long term expansion for the residential park sector as a whole is still reliant on the vagaries of the planning process. “We are always striving to expand our Park portfolio and there are a couple of Parks in the pipeline for the near future,” explains Joe. “The supply of new, modern sites for Parks is always going to be the biggest hurdle. “Fortunately, the tides are turning, and as local communities, councils and consumers start to see Park Homes (rightly so) on a par with conventional housing, the easier planning applications for Residential Parks will be.” Allens Caravans continued success is also evident in their Holiday Park portfolio. A brand new luxury Holiday Park, Bredon View, opened in Worcestershire on May 1st this year, bringing a five year development plan to fruition. No mean feat considering the tricky trading conditions of the pandemic. “Park Homes, much like every supply chain industry, has been hit by delays due to Covid,” says Joe. “With hundreds of supplies involved in manufacture and construction, this has inevitably resulted in a knock-on effect of price increases and, more significantly, longer waiting times,” Joe points out. “But we continue to invest back into all our Parks, both in terms of facilities and infrastructure.We have a solid history of investment spanning nine decades and this spirit is ingrained into every new generation who take on the stewardship of the Allens Caravans brand.”

Allens Caravans
Tel. 01564 792323
www.allenscaravans.co.uk

 

Residential Park Operator – CALL OF THE WILD

CALL OF THE WILD

WHIPSNADE PARK HOMES is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the Dunstable Downs. Photo - ZSL Whipsnade Zoo © ZSL

Unusual neighbours for some Bedfordshire park home residents...

Every park has its own unique attractions for home buyers but those of Whipsnade Park Homes are definitely more exotic than most! This third generation family- run business is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the Dunstable Downs just a couple of hundred metres from the UK’s largest zoo and safari park, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. “On a typical day, the sights and sounds of the safari park are never far away,” explains Park Manager Cheryl Sears. “A public footpath runs around part of the perimeter fence and it’s very common to see various species of deer, as well as elephants and camels from there.When the zoo is running its steam train, we can often hear the whistle blow. The occasional hoot, growl or even roar is also part of our daily life here atWhipsnade. It certainly adds to the local colour and is a real novelty for our residents.” Whipsnade Park Homes has been established for over 70 years by the family of the Park Owner Gill Ponsford. Gill’s Grandfather originally started the business to cater to touring visitors when Whipsnade Zoo first opened next door to his farm. In later years the park’s licence was changed permanently to residential use.

OVER FIFTIES
Whipsnade Park has been much improved over the years and now boasts 102 residential homes. All of the homes are connected to mains electricity, water and sewage. Residents make their own arrangements for oil or gas heating. The park is exclusively for the over 50s but there are often families and grandchildren visiting and the park community is a friendly and welcoming one. “Whipsnade is a lovely community full of like-minded people,” says Cheryl. “All of our residents have embraced the benefits of park home living. In downsizing and releasing equity from their previous homes, they are able to still maintain a very high standard of living. Most of the park homes have individual gardens and parking, and some owners also rent garages close to their property. Many homes offer lovely views over local farmland.” Whipsnade Park is well landscaped to reflect its beautiful natural setting in the Bedfordshire countryside. The park is nestled in the stunning Dunstable Downs, part of the Chiltern Hills, where residents enjoy scenic walks, several golf courses and a nearby gliding club. The park is located on the outskirts of the village ofWhipsnade, which contains a beautiful church, a traditional country pub, and a thriving village hall and social club, which in ‘normal times’ attracts the park residents to its many events and activities.

RESIDENTS OF THE PARK enjoy the sights and sounds of Whipsnade Zoo’s residents on a daily basis. Photo - ZSL Whipsnade Zoo © ZSL

TREE CATHEDRAL
The historic Whipsnade Tree Cathedral – trees, hedges and shrubs planted in the form of a medieval cathedral after the First World War - is just ten minutes’ walk from the park. Another National Trust property, the 5000-acre Ashridge Estate and its famous bluebell woods, is also a nearby attraction, popular with residents and their visitors. “Our lovely countryside setting is one of the biggest draws for prospective owners,” explains Gill. “It’s hard to believe that the bustling town of Dunstable is just three miles away. A lot of our residents take advantage of the bus service from the park entrance to nearby Hemel Hempstead, Luton and Dunstable. It’s possible to reach London by train in around 30 minutes. Our park really offers the best of countryside living with access to all amenities.” Whipsnade Park residents benefit from a wealth of high quality home choice. The Park features a selection of homes from leading manufacturers such as Omar, Tingdene, Prestige and Stately-Albion. There is presently a brand new Tingdene Hayden Classic (double bedroom) just about to be released onto the market, and plans are already in development for a further two new homes this year. The park continues to be 95% full, with around 150 residents in full time occupancy throughout the year - a positive outcome considering the challenges of trading in any business during the last 12 months. “We feel very lucky to have weathered the storm of the Pandemic and not been too badly affected,” says Gill. “Inevitably there’s been a bit of a slowing down in the property market. For us, it’s prevented the over 50s from visiting the park to view any potential new homes.We’ve invested more in our website and marketing materials accordingly but there’s no substitute for being able to see the park first- hand.We are now looking forward to welcoming visitors again and showing prospective residents the advantages of joining our lovely community.”

THE NEW TINGDENE HAYDEN CLASSIC which is about to be released onto the market

BRIGHT SIDE
Unexpectedly, the Covid Pandemic has resulted in some more welcome benefits too. Residents ofWhipsnade Park Homes have benefitted from the setting up of a good neighbours’ scheme known locally as SKaW, which covers all those who live in the three surrounding villages of Studham, Kensworth and Whipsnade. The scheme offers lonely and vulnerable people assistance with grocery shopping, medical transport, prescription collection and other necessary activities. “Although the park didn’t set up the scheme, SKaW has been a valuable resource for some of our elderly residents,” shares Cheryl, who herself volunteered as a helper last year. “In many ways, park home living has proved to be the perfect environment for lockdown,” adds Gill. “It offers a ready-made self-contained community with plenty of support.” “It’s heart-warming to see how the community as a whole has been brought a lot closer together as a result of this year’s difficult events. It just goes to show that positive things can come out of even the hardest circumstances. As the situation improves nationally, at Whipsnade Park Homes we will be continuing to support our residents, whilst keeping those stronger community ties and values close to home.”

Whipsnade Park Homes
Tel. 01582 873 119
www.whipsnadeparkhomes.co.uk

THE BUSINESS WAS ORIGINALLY CREATED as a touring park for visitors to Whipsnade Zoo which is next door.

BLANK CANVAS

BLANK CANVAS

York House Leisure expands into the residential park sector...

With a solid background in owning and operating award-winning holiday parks in picturesque North Yorkshire, it was just a matter of time before York House Leisure expanded into the residential park sector. Now, this family-run business is launching its most ambitious development so far –Gateforth Park -- a large, luxury park home community on a 45-acre site, just minutes from the popular market town of Selby in the Vale of York. “My family had been looking for the right ‘blank canvas’ for many years,” reveals York House Leisure Co-Director, Phil Brierley. “York House Leisure was established in 1965 as a holiday park business, but we’ve grown naturally over the years into the residential market. “We were keen to further expand and offer something different when, four years ago, a chance meeting led to our discovery of the site at Gateforth.”

VANDALISED SITE

Phil says that looking at Gateforth Park today, with Phase One of its luxury development well underway, it’s hard to believe that this former mushroom farm site had stood derelict for a decade and was a regular target for vandalism, arson and fly tipping. Fortunately, York House Leisure Directors Phil and his brother Tim had the industry experience to see past Gateforth’s appearance as a dilapidated brownfield site and recognise its potential. York House Leisure purchased the site in August 2018 and drew up plans for a three phase re-development that would completely transform the neglected 45-acre site into a spacious park home development of 168 well-appointed homes. “We felt that Gateforth Park could be transformed into something really special,” says Phil. “Our vision from the start was to develop the highest quality residential park that offered the very best in over 50s living. And with planning permission awarded unanimously by the local District Council in January 2019, the hard work really began!” The development at Gateforth is situated next door to Selby Golf Club and makes the most of its attractive countryside surroundings, as well as excellent road and rail links to some of the area’s top leisure destinations. When complete, the park will include a fishing lake, community centre, woodland and recreational areas. The lake will be surrounded by homes, giving relaxing views of the water and the wildlife. York House Leisure’s four holiday parks – York House, Old Hall, Swaleside and Abbot’s Green – already hold David Bellamy Gold Awards for conservation, and the plan is to develop a similar scheme at Gateforth Park.

CUTTING TEETH

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, in front of the new Majestic 42x20 at Gateforth Park - Phil Brierley of York House Leisure, Silvano Geranio & Andrew Westwood of Prestige Homeseeker, and Dawn Hughes of Gateforth Park.

The York House Leisure team cut their residential park teeth on Quarry Moor and New Park, a 92 plot, traditional style park that has been in the family since the early 1980s. The park is popular with over 50s wishing to downsize within a small, friendly community that offers easy access to the area’s considerable attractions. The two side-by-side developments are situated on the outskirts of the historic cathedral city of Ripon, home to the World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens, and a short drive from Harrogate and further afield, York. Quarry Moor and New Park is typical of the York House Leisure Park ethos. Phil says that they “aim to offer immaculately maintained parks, which offer quiet, private space with all the benefits of a real community.” “It might be traditional in style, but this park has been carefully developed over many years and is now filled with greenery and wildlife throughout the year,” explains Phil. “Each plot is set back from the main driveway, giving residents additional space and privacy that is a key selling point for re-sale of the homes there.” With a portfolio of successful parks, the York House Leisure team of 20 (35 in peak season) are happiest when looking after their customers, the majority of which are holiday home owners.

Flagship holiday park, York House, has won a raft of accolades including a Visit Britain 5 Star Award for Tourism, Hoseasons Diamond Finalist Award for Customer Service, and it was selected as a Finalist in the White Rose Awards 2019. With a bit of luck – and customary hard work – Gateforth Park will attract similar success. Fifty park home bases and eight show homes from Prestige Homeseeker Park and Leisure Homes are now in position at Gateforth as part of Phase One of the development. Already, the park has 10 reservations, which has exceeded expectations at this early stage, especially considering the challenges of operating over recent months. “What a difference a year makes!” says Phil, smiling. “We didn’t start redeveloping Gateforth until last August and we recycled many thousands of tonnes of concrete and demolished several huge industrial buildings on site. Not to mention the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic! But, all credit to our team, we are well on track with Phase One of the park and we couldn’t be more excited to start welcoming our first residents to Gateforth later this year.”

 

 

Magnificent Seven

ABOVE: Lodges at Ord House Country Park, Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Low Carrs is one of seven parks in the Maguire family portfolio…

A family business in wholesale carpets and flooring changed tack in 1981 when Billy Maguire Senior invested in Low Carrs, a residential park with 50 homes just five minutes walk from the city of Durham. In 2001, when Billy’s son, also Billy Maguire Senior, took over the running of Low Carrs, Maguires Country Parks was born. Today, Low Carrs is one of seven parks in the family-run portfolio that includes two residential developments - Low Carrs and the new Hurworth Springs Country Park; the award-winning Ord House Country Park, which offers a mix of residential homes, holiday homes, touring pitches and glamping pods; as well as four other ‘Country Parks’ - The Kaims, Forget Me Not, Newbus Grange and Swainby - that all feature privately owned holiday homes. Each of the Maguire’s parks is located in the northeast of England, close to the family’s roots in Darlington. Billy’s grandsons - Gilbert, Nathan and Billy Junior – are all Company Directors and heavily involved in the daily running of the parks, but with an expanding portfolio, this year saw the appointment of Maguires Country Parks first non-family Directors. Gilbert explains: “Scott Mounsey, Gretchen Wardman and Wayne Jones have all joined us this year, bringing their expertise to the company. Scott is our first-ever Financial Director. With their extensive corporate background, mixed with our family values, we hope this appointment will help us grow the business from strength to strength.” It’s clear from talking to Gilbert that these family values are held in the highest regard. The park’s business is in the Maguire’s blood. “I’ve grown up with these parks,” says Gilbert fondly. “I’ve known a couple of the residents of Low Carrs all my life. I spent most of my summers there, mowing the grass and helping out on the park whilst my Grandad sold the homes. I left school at 16 and we bought Newbus Grange the very next day. We eat and breathe the business as a family.” This commitment has paid dividends at the flagship Ord House Country Park, located close to picturesque Berwick-upon-Tweed, the northernmost town in England. Ord House, bought by the family in 2003, has a growing list of accolades that Gilbert says is “testament to our exceptional team.” From winning ‘Best Park in the North East’, to gaining a ‘Certificate Of Excellence’ from TripAdvisor for consistent 5 Star reviews, to being rated 5 Star in the ‘Loo Of The Year’ awards for their washroom facilities, Ord House is a true success story.

ABOVE: Scott, Billy, Area Sales Manager Emma, Gilbert and Nathan.

TOP NOTCH

TOP NOTCH With just 20 residential homes, Ord House is predominately a holiday park with privately owned homes benefitting from an abundance of top-notch facilities. Development is afoot with residential change of use secured for 60 plots, which will see Ord House welcome many more permanent residents in the near future. Ord House may have attracted the attention so far but hot on its heels is a new passion project. Gilbert says that “Hurworth Springs is the development we are most excited about as a family.” “Hurworth Springs is the first time that we haven’t inherited someone else’s vision and planning. Essentially, this park is a blank canvas, which affords us the chance to completely develop our own residential park from scratch. I’m so excited about this opportunity. And the fact that it’s situated just a mile outside Darlington, where we all grew up, is so important to us all… it truly feels like it’s meant to be.” The Maguire family have invested in Hurworth Springs financially as well as emotionally. Over five million pounds has been ploughed into the development and the park is now starting to take shape with 20 of the eventual 122 homes already occupied and residents starting to personalise their properties with their own touches. Hurworth Springs offers plenty of choice for prospective homeowners. “We offer everything from single units to huge twins with bi fold doors and every model in between. That’s another advantage of designing this park from scratch,” explains Gilbert. The Maguires work closely with several different manufacturers including Willerby and Pemberton Park Homes, but many of the homes on Hurworth Springs are supplied by ABI Holiday Homes, hand built in Beverley, East Yorkshire.

DIFFERENT AND MODERN

“We had a vision to create something different and modern at Hurworth Springs,” says Gilbert. “We wanted to move away from the traditional park home look and feel, and Abides Can Exel cladded homes fit the bill. The homes at Hurworth Springs look more like wooden lodges and combine good looks with quality and great performance, alongside minimal maintenance.” Hurworth Springs represents a first, not only for the Maguire family but also for the northeast of England. “The concept of residential park living is increasingly popular down south but it’s a new concept in the northeast,” explains Gilbert. “Educating prospective purchasers about the benefits of park home living is a pleasure. We love to challenge perceptions that bricks and mortar aren’t the be all and end all!” “First time visitors are completely blown away by the quality of the homes when they see them. People almost expect to still see oil lamps inside!” laughs Gilbert. But the message is a serious one. The family believe that these luxurious, fully furnished, one-level homes could provide a solution to the shortage of easy access bungalows in the area, and also alleviate loneliness in the over 50s, creating an old-fashioned sense of community. “Living on one of our parks is about peace of mind and security,” says Gilbert. “Residents can relax safe in the knowledge that we, as a family, will look after them.”

Maguires Park Homes
Tel. 01289 305288
www.maguiresparkhomes.co.uk

ABOVE: Hurworth Springs, close to Darlington, is the family’s latest development

Four Season Business

Four Season Business

The Parks business is in Nic Allen’s blood. Now Managing Director of Avon Estates, Nic’s grandfather Bill was the well-known founder of the eponymous Allen’s Caravans in the 1950s.
Allen’s Caravans was initially focused on holiday parks but Bill returned from a visit to the USA in the 1960s enthused with the trend for residential park living across the pond. Inspired to take things in a new direction, this move would change the trajectory of his family’s business interests for years to come.
When Nic’s father John decided to move away from Allen’s Caravans in 1984 taking three parks with him, Avon Estates was born. The company’s first residential park was bought in 1989 – St Mary’s in Birmingham – and was only sold last year.
Today, Avon Estates owns and operates six leading residential parks As well as five luxury holiday parks. Under the leadership of Nic Allen for the past eight years since his father John passed away, the company has doubled in size and significantly increased its residential portfolio.
FAMILY BUSINESS
“I’ve been involved in the family business for 20 years, but since I’ve been at the helm of Avon Estates, growing the residential side of the company has been my preference”, explains Nic.
“Not that we have neglected our holiday parks. We have just completed a £4 million renovation at our flagship Stratford Park.
But as my father and grandfather identified, park homes more easily guarantee a steady income and lead to a stronger business model that can literally weather all seasons. ”
During the last 18 months, Nic has secured two brand new parks and alongside a couple of other joint ventures, this makes a total of 320 residential bases to be installed. Nic estimates that this represents at least 10 years of future development.
“We have many new parks in the pipeline and last autumn we acquired the five-star caravan and camping park, Broadmeadow Park, in Ross-on-Wye, where we plan to add some residential homes,” says Nic. “Having achieved a level playing field in the business means that I now have more time to focus on acquisition.”
With this in mind, history has come full circle with the setting up of a new company six months ago, a joint venture between the two family businesses, Avon Estates and Allen’s Caravans.
Out of the six residential parks in the Avon Estates portfolio, three are currently the primary focus: Marston Edge and Welford Chase close to Warwickshire’s Stratford-upon-Avon, and Presthope Grange in Shropshire.
IDYLLIC VILLAGE
Welford Chase is a select riverside development of just 28 brand new plots for the over 50s in the idyllic village of Welford-onAvon, boasting outstanding country and riverside views.
The centre of the village, which is situated just four miles west of Stratford-upon-Avon, is designated as a conservation area and contains a number of attractive thatched houses, including what is believed to be the original “chocolate box cottage” in Boat Lane, reputedly the most photographed street in Warwickshire.
Marston Edge is another new park in a stunning location on the edge of the beautiful Cotswolds. 49 single storey homes are surrounded by the serenity of the Cotswold Hills whilst having the lively buzz of the market towns of Stratford-upon-Avon and Chipping Campden just a few miles away.
To the west in historical Shropshire, the new hillside development of Presthope Grange is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. 130 park homes are being developed here, on a site that lies 1000 feet above sea level among rolling hills and picturesque woodland, just 10 minutes from the pretty market town of Much Wenlock.
It’s obvious that location is of paramount importance across the Avon Estates portfolio and Nic admits to being “very picky” about the geographical areas they invest in.
“We are completely location driven when we are looking to purchase holiday or residential parks,” says Nic. “Most of our parks are close to tourist hotspots and even the newest one in Ross-on-Wye is situated just a couple of hundred metres from the picturesque town centre. I can’t think of a better retirement destination!” Avon Estates Head Office is itself located just minutes away from historic Stratford-upon-Avon on its riverside holiday park.
A team of just over 100 are employed across the business but the majority are on the holiday park side. Sales are managed in-house but development is handled by Park Evolution and most other roles such as maintenance and landscaping are contracted out.
SMOOTH OPERATOR
Nic says his excellent relationship with manufacturer Omar helps to keep the stocking plans of the parks running smoothly but he works with a number of different home manufacturers depending on individual customer requirements.
Nic recognises that this is a business in which the customer is king.
“We are getting to the stage where we are quite a large operator now,” explains Nic, “but still operate an open door and open book policy, and we meet every customer who joins us. All the residents have my mobile number and I spend a lot of time on the parks.”
Nic is proud that the family values that have always been significant in Avon Estates, still permeate the business as it grows ever bigger.
“The park homes business is a constant learning curve but we are getting closer to getting it right. We pride ourselves on our customer service. From the moment of first enquiry, to looking after our customers during the move, and onto the handover and after sales, Avon Estates is second to none.”
“I’ve learnt so much over the last few years and the sector is constantly changing. I think the biggest challenge is still people’s perception of what a park home is. Some customers literally cannot believe their eyes when they visit one of our show homes!
Everyone in the industry is trying their hardest to up their game and transform the old prejudices. We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years but there is still some way to go.”

Avon Park
Tel. 01789 299492
www.avon-estates.co.uk

Nature’s Paradise

Nature’s Paradise

Natures paradise 1

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

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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

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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.”

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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.