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.”

 

 

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

Award Winners Moved To Lincs Parks

Award Winners Moved To Lincs Parks

ABOVE: Life-sized horse sculptures now feature at two holiday destinations

The focal feature of an award-winning entry at the prestigious BBC Gardeners World Live show has moved to two Lincolnshire holiday home parks.
The life-size wooden horse sculptures which were hand-carved by an artist in Asia are now on permanent display at Lakeside Park in North Somercotes and Whispering Waters, Mablethorpe.
The ambitious show garden created by Horticulture and Construction students at Derby College Group’s Broomfield Hall won a silver merit medal at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre in June.
The college teamed up with the Multiple Sclerosis Society and a range of sponsors headed by Don Amott Parks which has five Lincolnshire holiday parks. Key features of the garden, including the spectacular wooden horses, have now been rebuilt at Lakeside Park, close to the village of North Somercotes, just 12 miles from Louth.
Chairman, Don Amott said: “Having lost a cousin to Multiple Sclerosis, I was particularly keen to work alongside the MS Society on this project. It is a charity that is close to my heart.”

Don Amott Parks
Tel: 01507 358428
www.donamottparks.com

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.

 

Hassle Free Moves Add Up With Part Exchange

quick move

When Verna and Ricahrd Culpeper visited Scamford Park with a view to investigating park homes, they knew immediately that it was the place for them.

Hassle Free Moves Add Up With Part Exchange

Verna and Richard Culpeper had lived in their three bedroom, semi-detached family home in leafy Harrow for 37 years when their daughter suggested it might be a good idea to move closer to her. As she lived on the west coast of Wales, she was worried that as they became older, with an eight-hour round trip between them, she wouldn’t be able to take proper care of them.

Having spent lots of time in Pembrokeshire over the years, Verna and Richard were familiar with the area, had friends and family nearby and liked the idea of being able to spend their retirement years there. They began to look at suitable properties and dismissed their initial choice of bungalows as they were either too expensive or needed a lot of work.

When they visited Scamford Park with a view to investigating park homes, they knew immediately that it was the place for them. Peaceful, friendly and with stunning views over the open countryside, the Culpepers could see themselves living a fulfilling and happy life there. They could also see that the park owner, Jason Hartley, took real care over the park and its residents’ well-being.

They immediately put down a deposit on the show home that they looked around, an Omar Colorado 44ft x 22ft and put their house on the market, expecting it to sell quickly as it had a big extension, thus making it one of the best properties on the street. At first, everything seemed to be going well and they soon accepted an offer. Unfortunately, the lady who had submitted the offer then became uncontactable and eventually they had to accept that she had no intention of going through with the purchase. Undeterred and with Jason being very understanding about the delay, they put the house back on the market.

Eventually they found another buyer, but unfortunately he messed them around several times, eventually pulling out of the sale as there was no planning permission documentation for the extension, despite the fact that it had been completed 50 years previously.

Verna explains: “We hadn’t sold a house for 37 years and needed some help. Unfortunately we felt that the estate agent was not ‘on our side’ and the situation just got worse and worse”.

Seeing the great deal of stress that Verna and Richard were under, Jason suggested that they might like to think about using Quick Move Properties to part exchange their house so that they could buy the park home.

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Quick Move Properties
Tel. 01793 840931
px@quickmoveproperties.co.uk
www.quickmoveproperties.co.uk

Plans To Revamp Derelict Camp

Plans To Revamp Derelict Camp

New owners want to create a holiday park at the derelict Atherfield Bay Holiday Camp on the Isle of Wight. Pic: TrevBish Photography

It could be ‘hi-de-hi campers’ for a former 1950’s holiday camp, with fresh plans to breathe new life into the abandoned site.

Developers plan to invest £10 million in Atherfield Bay Holiday Camp on the Isle of Wight to bring it up to date with contemporary holiday homes.

Set in 30 acres of land, the previously thriving camp ceased trading in 2007 and has since become neglected and derelict.

Plans lodged with the Isle of Wight Council seek to replace the existing 160 holiday chalets, the swimming pools and clubhouse with 95 modern, two and three-bedroomed holiday lodges, together with a new clubhouse and restaurant and two new swimming pools.

The holiday camp shot to fame when it was used by Channel 4 as the setting for Wakey Wakey Campers, a four-part reality TV series screened in 2005, which recreated a 1950s holiday camp.

Jake Slack, of Nottingham-based Richmond White Estates, which runs holiday, lodge and residential parks across the country, said they hoped to transform Atherfield into one of their flagship parks.

He said they hoped to start work early next year, subject to planning, and the site would be marketed to a world-wide audience.

Jake added: “We recognise it is a fantastic site and can see the potential there. In the past it has been a tremendous park and we want to recreate that.”