News – Holiday property: The chalet grows up

The latest holiday park homes feature green building techniques and contemporary design, often in a stunning setting. Zoe Dare Hall investigates
Talk of holiday parks can still conjure up images of rows of white plastic chalets each with its own picket fence. These days, however, the reality is as likely to be eco-friendly wooden cabins kitted out with the latest technological wizardry. To see just how far they have come, prospective buyers need only look to Treetops, a development by a Finnish company whose previous clients include the Queen. Her Majesty took such a fancy to one of its Nordic pine-log cabins that she had one built on her estate at Balmoral. Now the company, Honka, is building lodges with two or three bedrooms, vaulted ceilings and open-plan interiors near the green in the ancient Cornish village of Week St Mary, near Bude. They are permanent structures, not mobile homes, set on private plots, double-glazed, insulated and clad with half-round logs to retain heat and reduce heating bills. There is also eco-friendly underfloor heating supplied by a ground source pump and scope for adding a wood burner. They are restricted to use as holiday homes, but owners can live there all year round as long as they own another property as their primary residence. They cost £165,000-£192,000 through Knight Frank.
The Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales may not have quite such regal connections, but its unspoilt remoteness draws in holidaymakers who pile down to Abersoch, where chalets on seafront holiday parks can sell for over £500,000.
“I’ve been coming to this coast since I was a child,” says Bill Gleave, a property developer from Hale in Cheshire. “We used to stay in grim Butlins-style camps, but I always loved the area and bought a holiday home here 12 years ago. When I saw that a caravan park was up for sale, I knew I had to have it.
“It was a sight you see often on this coast – an incredible setting on National Trust land with views across the cliffs for miles, but this prime site was covered in rusty old caravans and derelict barns.” He has turned the rundown caravan park in Pistyll into Nature’s Point, a development of environmentally friendly and high-spec wooden lodges and converted barns, with a swimming pool, gym and private beach access and a breathtaking cliff-top setting. The nine converted barns, where you can live all year round, have interiors worthy of chic city apartments. They cost from £175,000 to £395,000, with five per cent of profits from sales going to a trust that invests in local housing and the environment.
There are 29 two and three-bedroom timber lodges with a maximum of 11 months’ usage per year, costing from £200,000 to £250,000. Most are on the clifftop with uninterrupted sea views. They come with 50-year leases, which can be renewed, and are furnished in reclaimed or locally sourced material, with stone floors, Jacuzzi baths and wi-fi. Bill is also restoring an old waterwheel to provide power.
“We have used modular builders to create proper, solid buildings,” he says. “It’s an incredibly friendly place and, besides the odd, amazing clifftop house, which cost around £1.5million, it is still a largely undeveloped area where it is hard to find good quality accommodation.” By using only local labour and restoring rundown buildings to improve the local environment, Bill has ensured that he is an accepted member of the community.
Nearby on this National Heritage Coastline are 20 Sites of Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve. This is also one of the best places in Britain to study clear night skies and constellations, thanks to the lack of light pollution, according to the Campaign for Dark Skies.
For those who want to find their own plot and have a green holiday home built, the timber-framed Lighthouse from Wessex is a lodge which has sliding glass doors and high vaulted ceilings to create light, bright open-plan spaces. The homes are highly energy-efficient, with large windows to reduce the need for artificial lighting, and take a week to construct. Prices depend on location – the lodges start at £137,500 for a two-bedroom en-suite Lighthouse, but the cost of installing it in a sought-after park such as Upton Glen, overlooking Weymouth, can rise to £280,000. The two-bedroom, fully-furnished Deckhouse, from £114,369, is similarly contemporary and open-plan, with options including home cinema, surround-sound system and a walk-in wardrobe. Usage restrictions depend on the particular park.
Another stunning setting, where there is no need to have your own lodge built, is Silver Bay in Anglesey. It offers fully-furnished timber lodges with access to a private beach, a mooring and views across one of Wales’s best sandy beaches. Prices start at £165,000 for a two-bedroom lodge (under planning rules, usable for 10 months a year). It’s a world away from plastic white holiday chalets. Her Majesty, one feels, would approve.