Can residential holiday parks become retirement villages?

Not long ago I was on a fact-finding trip with one of our leisure sector clients looking at a touring site we’d designed in North Wales.

On the day of the trip there had been a headline on the news about the dire housing shortage in the country, followed by another headline about loneliness becoming an acute issue for older people.

On our trip back to the North West my client, the owner of a residential park, mentioned he had recently moved an elderly relative onto his park.

This relative had been living on their own in a house and was lonely. They were now living on a park in a modern unit, which was well insulated, cheap to run, and easy to navigate around and maintain.

The park was secure with a barrier and CCTV at the entrance, there was warden coverage for normal working hours, and there was a ‘hub’ with organised events and a coffee shop facility.

It sounded as though there was a really positive community spirit on the site. Naturally, my client reported that their relative was enjoying life in their new home and had settled in really well.

That conversation started me thinking – could holiday parks assist with the current housing shortage?

Community credentials

The term ‘residential park’ is all encompassing and covers a huge range of sites and units. The phrase is much maligned and has suffered some bad publicity over the years, but residential parks have lots of positives to shout about.

Harrison Pitt Architects works regularly with members of the BH&HPA, which is the foremost organisation which represents the interests of the owners of sites across the UK. By being a member of the BH&HPA the site operators agree to run their sites in a professional manner, with the emphasis on providing a quality service. By their very nature sites run by BH&HPA members are amongst the best in the country.

At the heart of a good residential park is the quality of the community. This can be nurtured through good design which creates a good environment. Simple measures such as making the spacing of the units just that little bit wider, providing additional landscaping, creating vistas and aligning the units in clusters, rather than in a regular grid can make a considerable difference to the overall quality of the site.

Energy efficient and safe

These simple design moves can also help to nurture the sense of community on the site. The clusters can create micro-communities, external meeting spaces can be integrated into the landscaping scheme, communal facilities can provide a focus for the social activities on the site.

Good residential park design will not only improve the quality of the site for the residents, but it can also benefit site owners and operators by increase the saleability of the site and the value of individual pitches.

The best static units are incredibly energy-efficient and, in some cases, have similar thermal values to new houses. A compact well insulated space will undoubtedly lead to low heating requirements and highly economic running costs which is good for residents and good for the environment.

Finally, the traditional stereotype of a static caravan is changing; the units themselves come in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations; which can help to improve the visual character of the park and contribute positively to a sense of place. There are even ‘Eco’ units available which have timber cladding and turfed roofs.

In the right place, these parks have a place to play in addressing the housing shortage and also providing a great environment for a specific need; as a well-designed park with high-quality units and a range of on-site facilities can create a thriving community.

Written by Richard Wooldridge, director, Harrison Pitt Architects

Our leisure architects work on wide range of quality caravan park design projects, including touring sites and holiday and home parks.

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