REAPING WHAT THEY SOW
Jane Herbert meets the personalities behind the thriving Beston Group...
YAXHAM WATERS HOLIDAY PARK in Norfolk offers a stunning setting for holidays
On a cold winter’s day in the mid to late nineties, Timm Hay and Steve Johnson stood on a hill overlooking a rather tired-looking Beeston Regis Holiday Park on the North Norfolk coast wondering how to buy it!
At that time, Beeston Regis comprised 60 acres with 120 static caravan plots and roughly 400 tent and tourer plots, with a handful of hook-ups and a very old-fashioned shower block that hadn’t much changed from the original 1950s. The owner had sadly passed away, and the bank had taken control of the site.
On face value, it didn’t look like much of an investment but to Timm and Steve, Beeston Regis offered the ideal opportunity to cement their burgeoning business partnership. “We were young and keen,” says Steve. “Having done some research, Timm had discovered that Beeston Regis benefited from Section 17 of the 1960 Caravan Site Act.
“This was at a time when park owners, usually landowners, were required to apply for planning for the use of their land when used for six months of holiday use and six months grazing rights for cattle,” Steve continues. “The permission was granted if the local council didn’t reply within six months, which became deemed as unconditional planning permission with no time constrictions.”
TIMM HAY AND STEVE JOHNSON, the founders of The Beeston Group.
Timm’s inside knowledge from his first job as a planning consultant for a holiday park specialist in London came in very useful when he realised that this was the case at Beeston Regis. Says Steve: “Uncovering the Park’s unutilised planning permission was a pivotal moment for us. This was extremely valuable, and so we just had to find a way to buy the Park.”
Timm and Steve had found their first joint investment. Beeston Regis Holiday Park is now a thriving park with 300 holiday bases and 190 camping and touring plots. Moving forward, the duo soon expanded into another small park which they later sold at a profit, and also added Cliff House Holiday Park in Dunwich to their portfolio.
At the same time, they undertook a major project to build The Hollies, a 30-acre park in Kessingland, Suffolk, on former farmland and a derelict house. Timm invested in five further parks which he still owns: four in Norfolk - Gold Coast and Hazelbury Holiday Parks in East Runton, Yaxham Waters Holiday Park and Mundesley Holiday Village: as well as New Hall Lodge Park in Dovercourt, Essex.
Over time, the eight parks co-owned by Timm and Steve all came together under the one umbrella of The Beeston Group. Today, with just under 800 lodge and static caravan plots, 750 camping and touring plots, and around 150 self-catering units, The Beeston Group is wholly concerned with holiday home ownership and rental, camping and touring. “With large holiday park groups owning a big percentage of the holiday parks in the UK, we really try to set ourselves aside,” explains Steve.
GUESTS STAYING AT CLIFF HOUSE Holiday Park have access to the lovely beach below
“We pride ourselves on offering great holidays in superb locations, mostly on the beautiful East Anglian coastline, and many of our parks offer guests direct access to the beach. Most importantly, however, the majority of our customers know us as Steve and Timm. As business owners and operators, the personal touch is very important to us.” The Beeston Group employs around 160 staff who support Steve and Timm across the individual parks.
Cliff House Holiday Park is considered the flagship of The Beeston Group. The scenic lodge plots take full advantage of the Park’s enviable location on the idyllic Suffolk Heritage Coast and it is considered to be one of the top locations in East Anglia to own a holiday lodge. The 30-acre park is situated on the cliff top between the popular coastal towns of Southwold and Aldeburgh.
Visitors benefit from the stunning heath and woodland surroundings, as well as direct beach access below. Cliff House Holiday Park has won many accolades, including East of England Park of the Year in the National Tourism Awards, as well as numerous regional awards and The David Bellamy Gold Award for conservation many times. Since purchasing Cliff House Holiday Park in February 2000, The Beeston Group have invested heavily.
At the centre of the Park is the eponymous Cliff House, a large Victorian property built originally as a merchant’s house, and later owned by the family of the famous Aston Martin racing driver Jock Horsfall. Cliff House is currently being renovated to a high standard at a cost of £1.5 million. “We’ve very excited about the development of Cliff House,” explains Steve.
“It’s a lovely historic building and the careful renovation is taking around two years. When it’s finished, the nine-bedroom house will be rented out to single parties of up to 18 people for family gatherings and the like. “The rooms are to be named after James Bond films, and the house will feature a ‘secret room’ hidden by a bookcase containing a casino for the guests!” The Park’s existing popular bar and restaurant has also been extensively renovated since opening in 2010.
It’s named ‘The 12 Lost Churches’ in recognition of the tragic destruction of 12 local churches during three major storms over a period of 100 years during the 1100: 1200’s when Dunwich was actually the capital of East Anglia. With updates to their portfolio of parks an ongoing project, Timm and Steve are keen to ensure that any developments are as sustainable as possible.
“We use ground heat source pumps to heat our bar and restaurant,” says Steve. “We also have banks of solar panels dotted around all our parks and electric car charging points. Staff can choose to opt into a salary sacrifice scheme to buy or lease new electric vehicles. All our parks are also very active in conservation projects. For example, this year our teams have installed 50 bat boxes and 100 bird boxes across our developments.”
Mundesley Holiday Village has also received significant investment since it was acquired by Timm. Originally built in the 1930s, Mundesley was one of the first holiday camps on the North Norfolk coast. The holiday village now boasts luxury accommodation including lodges, bungalows, cottages and barns (some with hot tubs). The site occupies a prime clifftop spot with a beautiful beach just a short walk away.
THE PURPOSE-BUILT HOLLIES Camping & Leisure Resort in Kessingland, Suffolk
Guests staying at Mundesley are spoilt for choice with the outstanding beauty of the local countryside, as well as the excellent on-site facilities that include a games room, gym, sauna and spa. The Park works closely with Hoseasons and is pretty much full all-year-round. Despite the challenges of doing business over the last couple of years that have affected all industries, Steve is quietly confident that The Beeston Group’s ethos continues to stand them in good stead for the future.
“There’s no doubt that the conflict and cost of living rise have had a knock-on effect,” says Steve. “Customers are definitely being more cautious with their spending but that gives us even more incentive to renovate and refurbish our Parks so that our product is the absolute best that it can be. We already offer great quality and excellent value to our guests and holiday homeowners. Continuing on that path, we hope to share many more years of success together.”
CLIFF HOUSE HOLIDAY PARK is considered to be one of the top locations in East Anglia to own a holiday lodge
THE MAJORITY OF THE BEESTON GROUP parks offer beautiful coastal views. Pictured, Hazelbury Holiday Park in East Runton
THE 12 LOST CHURCHES restaurant and bar at Cliff House
THE HIDEAWAY, at Mundesley Holiday Village with private sauna
AN ACCESSIBLE PLAY Area at Cliff House Holiday Park
MUNDESLEY HOLIDAY VILLAGE has received significant investment and is very popular