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

Holiday Park Innovation PREVIEW

Holiday Park Innovation PREVIEW

ABOVE: More than 4,000 visitors are expected for this month’s Holiday Park & Resort Innovation Show.

Underlining its reputation as one of the leading holiday park shows in Europe, this month’s Holiday Park Innovation aims to attract over 4,000 key decision makers in the industry to the NEC for its unmissable annual gathering. For added appeal, the event from November 6 to 7 inclusive, reinforces its recipe for success by running other rural shows alongside, including the Farm Business Innovation Show, Family Attraction Expo, and our launch show, the Leisure Food and Beverage Expo. The Holiday Park & Resort Innovation Show is dedicated to providing the country’s most ambitious holiday park and resort owners and managers with the best advice, services, and products to make their holiday business stand out from the rest. With 400 exhibitors and 170 seminars dedicated to the industry, it’s the perfect opportunity to create the idyllic getaway for your customers. Learn the latest industry knowledge and gain insight into the newest innovations and technology currently available. If the exhibitors themselves were not enough to pack your visit, over the two days, the organisers offer a tempting seminar programme backed by insightful speakers.

Take some time to visit the Keynote theatre from 11 am to 4 pm. On both days speakers will be covering topics as broad as Post-Brexit Tourism, Maximising the Natural Environment, and Busting Outdoor Accommodation Myths while Hoseasons’ Shelley D’Arcy discusses the benefits of using land for the holiday market. Three other theatres offer stand-out presentations from 11 am to 4 pm daily covering subjects as varied as holiday hot tubs, playground design, to water conservation. Look out for Vicky Parr, from Visit England, discussing ways of boosting your business for holiday makers in the UK while Dave Courteen of Mosaic Spa and Health Clubs will outline How to Create a Profitable On-Site Leisure. So what are you waiting for? Register for your free tickets via the Holiday Park & Resort Innovation show website with your chance to see the show first hand.

As the main media partner to the event, Holiday Park Scene is a B2B print and on-line magazine for the holiday park sector, earning itself a reputation as an essential read for anyone involved in holiday park management. Packed with fresh ideas and essential reading for anyone who runs or works in a holiday park the magazine is available on-line at www.holidayparkscene.com Holiday Park Scene offers the inside track on the latest market news and reports covering all aspects of holiday park management. Most importantly, Holiday Park Scene provides you with a targeted platform to promote your products and services across all areas of the UK and Eire holiday park sector. If you would like to get involved with this exciting publication, please don`t hesitate to visit the team at the show or make direct contact now, to help us understand how to make you stand out from the crowd.

Exhibition Showcase

British Holiday & Home Parks Association
Tel. 01452 526911
Web. bhhpa.org.uk

BusinessesForSale.com
Web. businessesforsale.com/sell

Family Holiday Association
Tel: 0203 117 0650
Web: familyholidayassociation.org.uk


Fordingbridge
Tel. 01243 554455
Web. fordingbridge.co.uk

Gemapark
Tel. 01983 282420
Web. gemapark.co.uk

Light Sauce
Tel. 0845 470 6060
Web. light-sauce.co.uk

Marquis Spas
Tel. 07722 187272
Web. marquishottubs.co.uk/holidaypark

Suntrap Systems
Tel. 0121-428 1155
Web. suntrap-systems.co.uk

Wicksteed Playgrounds
Tel. 01536 517028
Web. wicksteed.co.uk

Wilby Park Protect Insurance
Tel. 01422 358 525
Web. parkprotect.co.uk

AstralPool
Tel. 01329 514000
Email. sales@astralpooluk.com

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.”

 

Warfield Go Green

Warfield Go Green

ABOVE: Warfi eld Park has been named the National Social Responsibility Company of the Year.

ABOVE: Warfield Park has been named the National Social Responsibility Company of the Year.

A residential park in Berkshire has hit the mark at the National Energy Efficiency and Healthy Homes Awards 2017. Warfield Park in Bracknell claimed the title of National Social Responsibility Company of the Year. The award recognises the ambitious upgrade programme to improve energy efficiency and performance of park homes at Warfield which recently marked its 70th anniversary. Energy efficiency measures have been installed in 29 rental park homes under a government initiative, and the park has assisted 49 private residents to do the same during 2016. Apart from improving living conditions for residents, projected energy savings are anticipated to be in the region of £500 per year per home. The works on the 90-acre park were carried out by two companies: Omar Skinner and Sons and Insulated Homes Limited, the latter nominating Warfield Park for the award.

 

Quality Benchmark

Quality Benchmark

The number of homes at Birch’s Parks ranges from 20 plots to over a hundred.

The number of homes at Birch’s Parks ranges from 20 plots to over a hundred.

Jane Herbert meets the team behind Birch’s Park Homes…

When Charles Birch Sr saw the opportunity to expand his caravan sales business into the park homes market in the early 1970s, he would not have foreseen that this was the start of the Birch’s brand we know today.

Now, synonymous with the highest quality homes in some the most desirable locations in England, Birch’s Park Homes are one of the UK’s leading operators in luxury residential developments.

As Chairman of Birch’s Park Homes, Charles Birch Sr has long since handed over the day-to-day operation of the Cambridgeshire-based business to his sons Charles and James Birch. With a growing portfolio of ten parks across Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Hampshire, Somerset, and soon Essex, Birch’s Park Homes are renowned as a luxury operator but as a family-run business, like to keep their feet on the ground. “Our business has grown so much over the years and we are constantly expanding and looking for new opportunities,” explains Managing Director Charles Birch. “It’s not just about growth though. We like to be the best we can be. Attention to detail at every level is an important part of the Birch’s brand. We are continuously working with new products, new landscaping and new ideas to push forward our business and make our next park better than the last.”

CLASS LEADERS

The number of homes in Birch’s parks varies considerably from under 20 select plots to over a hundred in their largest parks, but the emphasis is very much on quality over quantity, regardless of size. Class-leading homes (often designed in partnership with Birch’s themselves) placed amidst careful landscaping to maximise residents’ privacy and security are key to each overall park design.

Bluebell Woods on the outskirts of the beautiful city of Cambridge is typical of a Birch’s development. Opened in 2007, this small, gated estate offers just 16 high-specification homes in a pretty, woodland setting. All Birch’s parks are aimed at retired and semi-retired people with residents generally required to be aged 45+.

Key to the success of many of Birch’s ‘boutique-style’ developments is their stunning locations. Sandbanks, in Clevedon, Bristol, is an exclusive development of just 23 contemporary homes on a private, gated estate. Opened in 2009, the park has been expertly designed to make the most of the spectacular seaside setting, ensuring that every home benefits from magnificent views over the Bristol Channel to the mountains of Wales. Additionally, each home boasts a stylish glass balcony from which to enjoy the incredible views. Indian stone paths wind around the landscaped terraces and lead to private access to the bay below and a lovely coastal walk to the Victorian seaside town of Clevedon, just 13 miles from Bristol.

New to the Birch’s portfolio is another brand new waterside development. The Estuary will be launched in March 2017 and will offer the highest standard of park homes, each offering unrivalled marina views over Hamble, one of England’s finest spots for sailing and watersports. According to Charles, interest in the limited number of homes available is already “at fever pitch.” With prices starting from around £300,000, The Estuary will offer truly luxurious park home living.

View of the patio of one of the homes at The Tides development in Somerset.

View of the patio of one of the homes at The Tides development in Somerset.

PUSHING BOUNDARIES

Pushing the boundaries of the park homes business and its reputation is central to Birch’s vision. “In the past, park home living has sometimes suffered from a poor reputation due to a handful of unscrupulous operators,” says Charles Birch. “Thankfully, the tides are changing. We like to think that our unique brand of parks, our partnerships with quality manufacturers and our emphasis on exclusivity is all helping to change the perception of park living. At Birch’s, we genuinely believe the potential for the park homes sector is limitless and we want to keep Birch’s at the forefront.” Charles says Birch’s aim is to grow their park portfolio so they have a “park in every county in England.” Acquisition is a key part of their future expansion plans. “We’re actively looking to acquire new parks at the moment. Residential parks, caravan or camping sites… We’re keen to get any parks with additional development opportunities on the Birch’s radar,” says Charles. Having outgrown their existing HQ in Waterbeach, Cambridge, Birch’s are also in the process of constructing new offices and looking to expand their team of staff from 20 to considerably more. A new website is currently in development and Charles, James and the team are working on a number of exclusive projects that will ensure Birch’s profile in the park homes business and property world only continues to rise.

Family Affair

Multi-million business started from a chance encounter….

Woodlands Estate in Canterbury was the first park home development from Keat Farm Parks.

Woodlands Estate in Canterbury was the first park home development from Keat Farm Parks.

In the 1950s, a chance enquiry by a stranger wishing to store his caravan set off a chain of events that has led to Keat Farm Parks becoming one of South East England’s most successful and long established holiday and residential park groups.

 
Keat Farm in Kent started life as a smallholding and family home for the Kent family who moved there from Hertfordshire in 1954.

 
After struggling to make ends meet as a B&B, Ronald and Muriel Kent took the opportunity to turn their old orchard into an impromptu campsite and, following planning permission, Keat Farm Holiday Park was born. In 1964 the family purchased a near derelict caravan park and turned it into their first park home development, Woodlands, near Canterbury.

 
Today, Woodlands Estate is a thriving development of 90 homes surrounded by a conservation area and offering splendid views across the rolling Kent countryside to the coast.

 
Woodlands is now one of nine Keat Farm Parks in a business worth over £20 million and employing 45 permanent staff throughout Kent. Five residential parks are home to around 600 residents aged 50+ in Canterbury, Herne Bay, Maidstone and Whitstable. A variety of single and double occupancy homes are offered with most fully furnished homes being supplied by Omar and Prestige.

 

NO RISKS

 
Keat Farm may have grown somewhat over the years but for Malcolm Kent, who celebrates 50 years in the business this year, it is still very much a family-run affair just like his parents intended: “I joined the company in 1966. My elder sister was company secretary and my two brothers-in-law both worked here. In 1986 my father died and I took over the control, with my son joining the company in 1999 and my daughter in 2001.”

 

Malcolm attributes business success to ‘never taking uncalculated risks.’ Under his management, the company has grown steadily through the acquisition of other parks in the region and through taking on major holiday home distributorships.

 
Keat Farm’s philosophy has always been to make their customers as happy as possible. “Quality of product and customer care are both paramount to increasing market share,” explains Malcolm. “Customer expectation is so much higher than ever before. It’s a much changed industry since I first joined, but I think we can be proud of the fact that parks have moved with the times and continue to meet customer expectations.” It is this eye on future sustainability that has led to Malcolm making a sideways move from Managing Director to Group Chairman this summer. Malcolm’s son, Ben Kent, moved into the role on August 1st after serving on the board since 2011 with responsibility for sales and marketing.

 

SUPERB WORK

On the move (left to right) are Godfrey Brown, Ben Kent, Paul Taylor and Malcolm Kent.

On the move (left to right) are Godfrey Brown, Ben Kent, Paul Taylor and Malcolm Kent.

“Dad’s aim has always been to ensure that he leaves a legacy and not a burden,” explains Ben. “Moving to the position of Chairman helps manage the transfer of Keat Farm Parks to the next generation and means better security for our investment. I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead and building on the superb work from both my Granddad and Dad, not forgetting all of our fantastic team here.” Supporting Ben is newly appointed board director Paul Taylor who joined the company in 2003 in a sales management capacity. Other Directors of the group are Malcolm’s wife Janet, their daughter Justine Beba and son-in-law Wayne Beba.

 
Close family friend and colleague for 30 years Godfrey Brown also retired his directorship this summer. Malcolm pays tribute to the “magnificent support and pivotal role Godfrey played in Keat Farm’s success story.”

 
So what’s next for Keat Farm Parks? Malcolm says they have plans for a small development in the near future but expansion “depends on the political decisions made in Westminster.”
Asked to comment on the challenges facing the park home industry at this time, Malcolm mentions the as yet unknown potential impact of leaving Europe and ongoing issues with the minority of park operators whose poor practices tarnish the industry’s reputation.

 
“There comes a time when a new generation must take the reins but after 50 years, this is still a fantastic industry to work in despite huge changes over the years,” says Malcolm, who was Chairman of the NCC from 1996 till 1998, and more recently completed two years as National Chairman of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association.

Village In A Village

Village In A Village

Cathedral View Park boasts immaculate five star finishes within its gated complex.

Cathedral View Park boasts immaculate five star finishes within its gated complex.

Describing themselves as a village within a village, it is hard to imagine the residents of Witchford’s Cathedral View Park could be any happier. No wonder when you take a glance around the immaculate five star finishes within the gated complex in rural Cambridgeshire.

 

There is an unmistakeable buzz of community spirit amongst residents of the park homes site, many of whom are latterday London evacuees who have moved to the Park to enjoy their retirement. Owned by the Webb family for about 11 years, Cathedral View currently boasts some 20 homes with both plans and the space to increase the community to 34 residences.

 

Part of the Cambridgeshire Parks group, the family enterprise exudes great pride, care and consideration not least in the top quality accommodation provided, as well as the first rate finishing touches.

 

"You won’t see this calibre of home on any other development,” enthuses Matthew Webb, as he shows off the £200k award-winning show home with its own balcony and garage. “It is the Rolls Royce of the park scene.”