Guy Hindley Group: Guy Hindley
The business bringing five star accommodation to the camping sector
Caravans aren't traditionally cool. They're rarely associated with luxury living, either: more Pontins than posh.
However, Guy Hindley, founder of Ribblesdale Park, a 16-acre holiday home development near Clitheroe in Lancashire, is ripping up the rulebook. He's bringing five-star accommodation to a market previously as mobile as the static ‘lodges' he's selling for between £139,000 and £269,000.
Having inherited the land, which had been granted planning permission for a caravan park, in 2003, Hindley researched the caravanning industry. “I spent six months visiting places such as Center Parcs. It was far more successful than I thought [there are a million caravans in the UK] but it was comprehensively a three-star offering.”
Ribblesdale Park is far from that. Its immaculately landscaped grounds house 16 (with space for 62) lodges which, while essentially large static caravans, come with hot tubs, plush interiors selected by the in-house stylist following consultation with the buyer, designer kitchens and state-ofthe art technology. In addition to the lodges themselves, there are maid, delivery, valet and concierge services pandering to the owners' every need.
Price of purchase, not forgetting the £3,000 annual maintenance charge with excludes services and utility bills, dictates Ribblesdale Park isn't for everyone – but that's the idea. “We're offering something exclusive and we don't want certain types of people,” says Hindley. “I lived in a Manhattan apartment that had a doorman and was very strict on noise, security and cleanliness. It was a pain but meant the place stayed nice and kept its value – I want the same here.” Consequently, there are strict rules – “nobody can just put a shed up” – and the company will handle the leasing of any properties bought as rental investments to ensure suitable holidaymakers.
Hindley is equally strict on privacy. Rubbishing reports that two Manchester United footballers had already purchased lodges, he said: “I wouldn't tell you even if they had. Our owners' anonymity is very important. People will play a lot for peace and quiet nowadays.”
Since the park opened four months ago, 13 lodges have been sold and Hindley anticipates that will double by the end of the year. Lodges are acquired in their basic state and decorated once onsite. Hindley says: “All the profit is in the lodges themselves – that's where our money is.” The maintenance and service fees will cover overheads, but Hindley anticipates further income from a secondary market. “We think there will be a 10% turnover rate on the park and we get 5% of any future sale.”
Ribblesdale Park is simply the blueprint for Hindley's development ambitions, however, and he already has an option on land for a 250-capacity development in the Lake District. Hindley raised £2m of bank debt to get going and will look for a second round of funding for the next project. He has no ambition to create a chain, though.
“There won't be a Ribblesdale Park 2,” he insists. “But we've proved this type of development works and that we're not afraid to spend money to do it well. Each one will be aesthetically pleasing and serviced to a high standard – and we won't apologise for that.”