Center Parcs UK and Ireland
Center Parcs UK and Ireland (formerly Center Parcs UK) is a short-break holiday company that operates six holiday villages in the United Kingdom and Ireland, with each covering about 400 acres (1.6 km2) of woodland. The company's first village opened at Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, in 1987 and its sixth, at Longford Forest, Ireland, opened in 2019.
|Center Parcs UK|
|Private limited company|
|Industry||Hospitality and Leisure|
|Founded||1987 (first UK village)|
2001 (separation from Center Parcs in continental Europe)
Number of locations
|United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland|
|Martin Dalby (CEO)|
Center Parcs UK and Ireland locations
A similar enterprise operates in continental Europe, also under the name Center Parcs, however the two companies have been separately owned since 2001. Center Parcs UK marked its 30th anniversary year in 2017.
As part of a global companyEdit
In 1968, Dutch entrepreneur Piet Derksen purchased woodland near Reuver so that staff and customers of his 17 store sporting goods chain could relax in small tents. The park, De Lommerbergen, was successful and tents were quickly replaced by bungalows.
In July 1987, Center Parcs opened its first UK resort at Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. At that time, "Center Parcs" (under that name, with no regional qualifier) was a single global company owning both UK and continental European resorts. In 1989 it opened its second village in the UK at Elveden Forest. Center Parcs (including the Sherwood Forest and Elveden Forest villages) was bought in 1989 by Scottish & Newcastle.
As a separate companyEdit
During a move in 2001 to concentrate on their core brewing business, Scottish and Newcastle sold the UK side of Center Parcs to venture capitalists Deutsche Bank Capital Partners, becoming a separate company known then as Center Parcs UK. The remainder of Center Parcs continued to operate, later known as Center Parcs Europe. The two companies have since operated under the same brand, but ever since have been owned and operated by two separate and different companies. (In 2003 S&N sold Center Parcs Europe to a joint venture of France-based Pierre & Vacances (P&V), who already owned the competing Gran Dorado Resorts, and German investment group DBCP, hence completing the divesting of Center Parcs from the restructured S&N.)
In December 2003 Mid Ocean agreed to sell the UK resorts to Arbor Ltd for £285 million, a special vehicle set up to float Center Parcs UK on London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market, and in 2005 it moved to the main stock market listing. In May 2006 Center Parcs UK Group PLC was sold to The Blackstone Group for a reported £1.1 billion, and subsequently re-registered as a private company. Under a separate deal at the same time, Blackstone also bought the freehold of the European sites from P&V, which allowed them to rebrand all of the European sites as Center Parcs.
In June 2015, it was announced that Blackstone had agreed to sell the company to Canadian-based Brookfield Properties Corporation for £2.4bn. At the time Center Parcs UK employed around 7,500 people and received around 2 million guests in 2015.
Center Parcs has short-break holiday villages in five locations in the UK, with a sixth in Ireland which opened in 2019. Each village covers around 400 acres (1.6 km2) of woodland, with a standard set of facilities, and have around 97% occupancy annually.
No personal cars are allowed into the villages except on arrival and departure days.
|Country||Resort||City / Village||Region/County||Year opened||Added to portfolio||Details|
|United Kingdom||Center Parcs Sherwood Forest||Mansfield||Nottinghamshire||1987|
|United Kingdom||Center Parcs Elveden Forest||Elveden||Suffolk||1989||Closed between 2002 and 2003 following a major fire which destroyed the plaza and sports centre|
|United Kingdom||Center Parcs Longleat Forest||Warminster||Wiltshire||1994|
|United Kingdom||Center Parcs Whinfell Forest||Penrith||Cumbria||1997||2001||Previously owned by The Rank Organisation and called Oasis Lakeland Holiday Village|
|United Kingdom||Center Parcs Woburn Forest||Bedford||Bedfordshire||2014|
|Ireland||Center Parcs Longford Forest||Ballymahon||County Longford||2019|
The first Center Parcs holiday village in the United Kingdom was opened in July 1987. It is located in 400 acres (1.6 km2) of woodland at Sherwood Forest, near Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. The site was formerly owned by the Forestry Commission, and was chosen as it was "pretty central [in the UK], it had the right maturity of trees and was in an area affected by the demise of the coal industry".
By 2012 it was receiving around 400,000 visitors annually, mostly from outside of Nottinghamshire. It can have around 4,000 visitors at any one time. The occupancy rate was over 90% in the first 30 years of operation.
A £3 million refurbishment of the Aqua Sana spa finished in April 2017, and a £15 million refurbishment of the Subtropical Swimming Paradise swimming facilities at the village started in September 2017. The village employs 1,500 people, of which around 700 are housekeepers.
The site originally had 609 lodges, which increased to 900 by the end of 2017. It has a mixture of Woodland Lodges, New Woodland Lodges, Executive Duplex Lodges, Penthouse Duplex Lodge, Executive Apartment, Executive Lodge, New Executive Lodge, and Treehouses, with between one and four bedrooms in each. Three luxury Treehouses were opened in 2010, each with four bedrooms. A six-bedroom Woodland Lodge was opened in 2017, along with 27 other woodland lodges.
The activity areas include:
- Village Square, including:
- Subtropical Swimming Paradise indoor water park. Includes spa pools, wave pools, rides, flumes, and slides. Opened in 1987, extended in 1990, and a raft ride was added in 2002. Refurbishment started in September 2017, and will add toddler pools, raft rides, and a children's adventure cove.
- Other activities: Falconry, Leisure Bowl, Pottery Painting Studio.
- Shops: Parc Market supermarket (refurbished in 2017), Aquatique, JustKids, Spirit, Time for Shade, The Store Room, Treats.
- Food: Bella Italia, Café Rouge, Dexter's Kitchen, Dining In, Huck's American Bar and Grill, Rajinda Pradesh, Starbucks, The Canopy Café.
- Other facilities: Medical centre. The Venue, a 600-person conference centre.
- Jardin des Sports. Gym, courts Activity Den, Astro Turf, bowling green. Also Sports Café and Starbucks, and Refresh and Sportique shops.
- The Country Club. Forrester's Inn, Nature Centre.
- The Beach and The Boathouse. Adventure golf, The Pancake House. Sandy beach. The Boathouse hires out boats for use on the lake. Closed in winter months.
- Aqua Sana Spa. Six zones containing 25 experiences including a Treetop Sauna 10 metres (33 ft) from the ground, as well as an ice cave, outdoor hot tubs, and a volcanic steam room. Opened in April 2017 having cost £3 million to refurbish.
- Action Challenge. Abseiling, climbing walls and high-rope course.
- Outdoor Activity Centre. quad biking, archery, paintball, laser combat.
- Cycle Centre. Hires out bicycles. Mobility scooters, wheelchairs, cycle trailers, D-locks and helmets also available. The village originally had 500 cycles, which increased to 3,000 by 2017.
Two years later, in 1989, a second village was added, at Elveden Forest. It makes up a small area of Thetford Forest west of the B1106 road and near the town of Brandon in Suffolk, England. It is named after the nearby village of Elveden.
Just before 10am on 4 April 2002 a major fire destroyed the central plaza and sports centre of Elveden Forest. One member of staff was treated for smoke inhalation, but there were no serious injuries. The plaza was destroyed and more than 100,000 people had their breaks at the village postponed. The fire also destroyed seven bars and restaurants, a disco, some gift shops, a sports centre and a bowling alley. The damage to the forest was minimal.
Elveden Forest re-opened in July 2003 after a major re-design, less susceptible to the potential spread of fire. The most dramatic difference was to the village square which was rebuilt with an open-air Mediterranean theme. The sub-tropical swimming paradise re-opened having mostly survived the blaze; the sauna complex was changed to a Balinese theme, and a new Sports Plaza was opened. Whilst it was closed, the rest of the village was also improved including the refurbishment of the country club and the addition of a spa and new three- and four-bedroom lodges.
Elveden Forest has a total of 866 units of accommodation which range from 'Woodland' grade to exclusive villas and include rooms at the Lakeview Hotel. These villas and rooms can accommodate up to 4,216 guests. Villas are located in six different areas with each area mostly including every type of accommodation, but the Ash and Oak areas are predominantly made up of executive and exclusive villas. Ash was extended in 2007 to include new four-bedroom two-storey villas.
The third village opened in 1994. It makes up a large area of Longleat Forest in the county of Wiltshire, England, and is co-located on the site of Longleat Safari Park nearby, approximately five miles (8 km) east of Frome and a few miles west of Warminster, Wiltshire. This village has fewer lodges than Elveden Forest and Sherwood Forest due to the steep topography of the site.
In 1997, The Rank Organisation had opened a similar style holiday village in Whinfell Forest near Penrith, Cumbria, under the name Oasis Lakeland Holiday Village, which featured commercial restaurants and businesses such as Burger King and a Hard Rock Cafe. Bought by Center Parcs UK in 2001, who removed the commercial ventures, the site was rebranded as Center Parcs Oasis Whinfell Forest, before 'Oasis' was dropped from the name in 2006. The set up at Whinfell is slightly different in that the style of accommodation is more akin to two-storey Scandinavian-style lodges, the main centre of the village is under cover, and there is no country club like at Elveden Forest and Sherwood Forest. Center Parcs have updated many Whinfell Forest lodges, and added new lodges of an identical style at their other UK villages.
Whinfell Forest is the largest of Center Parcs' five UK holiday villages, with accommodation for 4,668 people in 861 units.
Center Parcs Woburn Forest (formerly Center Parcs Warren Wood) is located on the outskirts of Flitwick and Ampthill (7–8 miles (11–13 km) from the Town of Woburn) in Bedfordshire in the UK. It commenced operation in July 2014.
The chief executive, Martin Dalby, said that the company might add a fifth village. In December 2004, Center Parcs UK announced that it had identified a location named Warren Wood near Flitwick at Woburn, Bedfordshire. Despite the land being designated as greenbelt, the company sought planning permission and had already completed the signing of a lease on the land from its owner, the Duke of Bedford. The project was expected to cost approximately £160 million, including the construction of accommodation, indoor and outdoor facilities, the sub-tropical swimming complex, restaurants and a spa, but this has since risen to £230m. It was anticipated that, given planning permission, the project would take between three and four years to complete.
In July 2006, Bedfordshire District Council turned down Center Parcs' application for planning approval on the grounds that the project breached policy safeguarding Metropolitan Green Belt land, leading the company to lodge an appeal against the decision later that year. The inspector hearing the appeal recommended that the Council's decision be upheld. In September 2007 the council's decision was overturned by the government as Secretary of State Hazel Blears overruled the inspector's advice. She acknowledged that the scheme breached both local and national policies on safeguarding Green Belt, but argued that "in this particular case, the economic and employment benefits of the proposal, when taken together with the ecological and biodiversity benefits... constitute very special circumstances and are sufficient to clearly outweigh the harm to Green Belt". and outline planning permission for the site was granted. In November 2010 Center Parcs gained full approval for the plans of the village including designs of facilities, restaurants, shops and accommodation and in 2012 secured £250 million of investment to build the new resort, to be known as Woburn Forest.
Before Center Parcs could start construction, there were a number of planning conditions that had to be satisfied, most notably the improvement of local road junctions to allow smooth access to the Village. They also had to submit a local employment strategy, local purchasing policy and a forest and ecology management plan. This represents final approval of the detailed designs of buildings and landscape as well as local sourcing, employment strategies and green travel plan. The next stage of the project was the construction of a new roundabout, as well as the diversion of the public rights of way that cross the site.
The site is slightly smaller than its other four sites at 375 acres (1.52 km2). It includes:
- 625 lodges, possible future expansion on an additional 75 lodges
- a 75 bedroom hotel
- six spa suites
- a 17,000 square metres (180,000 sq ft) lake in the middle of the village
- Aqua Sana & 6 bedroom spa accommodation
- two main centres with restaurants, retail outlets and subtropical swimming area
- 1400 space car park
- activity areas
- seven miles of road ways
- 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) of public rights of way and bridleways have been diverted
- two nearby junctions are being turned into roundabouts: Millbrook, which was completed in 2011 and Steppingley, which was completed in 2013.
This is a £250 million development, one of the largest leisure projects in the UK.
In March 2012, Center Parcs announced that it had met all requirements for work to start and that it had secured the £250 million funding required for construction of the site. The company also announced the official "Woburn Forest" title for the site.
It is the smallest UK Center Parcs village and opened in spring 2014.
In a 2008 interview, Martin Dalby, the chief executive of Center Parcs UK, stated that Woburn would be the last village the company constructed in the UK and that if a sixth village was considered it would probably be located in Ireland. In September 2015, Center Parcs UK announced its intention to build a new site in County Longford, Ireland. Named Longford Forest, it opened in July 2019.
Each village has a number of different lodge types that range from one- to four-bedroom accommodation for up to 8 people, however, Sherwood Forest recently opened 6-bedroom lodges for 12 people. Some larger lodges include their own games room and hot tub. Lodges are usually in small clusters and give a good degree of privacy, whilst allowing for self-catering and communal BBQs. Elveden Forest has no one-bed lodges, but instead includes the Lakeside View Hotel.
All beds at the villages were replaced in 2008. In 2011, Center Parcs began refurbishing all of its lodges. The beds were all replaced and new interiors introduced to help brighten up interiors. A new style 'Woodland Lodge' replaced the previous basic lodges to become the entry-level standard accommodation. Executive lodges were also upgraded.
Guests are able to book and participate in a wide range of activities at the various villages.
- Arrivals lodge. Each village has an arrivals lodge situated on the main drive and slightly east of the village entrance at Whinfell Forest. Guests are directed here for check-in from 10 am on their arrival day.
- Security lodge. Each village has a security lodge staffed 24 hours a day. Security staff help with directing traffic to the arrivals lodge, identifying all visitors to the village, staffing barriers, and assisting arrivals lodge staff on changeover days. They also staff the emergency phone number given to guests to call in the event of an emergency.
- Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The village swimming complex is known as the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and contains a wave pool, slides and chutes, wild water rapids, outdoor pools, a 'lazy river', flumes, a children's pool and food outlets. Rides vary between villages. Used to feature the iconic Tarzan call to signal the start of the waves crashing in the wave pool. This sound effect was replaced by a riff of a Bongo drum. The Tarzan call is still in effect at Longleat and Sherwood, the latter also having flashing lights accompanying the call to indicate to those hard of hearing.
- Village Square/Plaza. The main hub of restaurants and shops as well as other facilities such as Guest Services and the medical centre.
- Sports Plaza/Jardin Des Sports. Contains most of the indoor sports facilities such as squash courts, badminton courts, pool and snooker tables, gymnasium, table tennis tables, golf simulators, indoor wall-climbing and an aerobics studio. There is also a themed restaurant, a sportswear shop and a newsagent.
- Boathouse. For all water-based activities on the lake including canoeing, fishing, pedalos, windsurfing mini captains and raft-building.
- Aqua Sana. The village spa includes various themed rooms as well as a central pool with hot tubs.
- Activity Den. The village crèche.
- Leisure Bowl and House of Games. A ten-pin bowling alley and coin-operated arcade games.
- Country Club. Contains additional restaurant and leisure facilities at some villages.
- Shops/Retail. Includes supermarket "ParcMarket", newsagents "Refresh" and "ParcMarket Express", toy shop "Just Kids", gift shop "The Store Room", sweet shop "Treats", clothing and shoes shop "Spirit", sunglasses shop "Time for Shade", sports and fashion shop "Sportique", swimwear equipment shop "Aquatique", and the "Aqua Sana Spa Boutique". Some shops are owned by Center Parcs, whilst the rest are operated by the Nuance Group. JustKids and The Store Room replaced "Funtastic" and "Natural Elements" respectively in 2012.. Starbucks cafés were introduced to all villages in 2008.
A wide range of food and drink options are available for guests to visit or pre-book. £5/€5 booking deposit per person, redeemable from the final bill.
- Huck's American Bar and Grill. Serving American and Mexican meals, Huck's American Bar and Grill can be booked in advance and offers children's entertainment. Children under 12 years old can also eat for just £2 between 3 January and 24 February 2020.  Located at all Center Parcs villages.
- Rajinda Pradesh. Contemporary Eastern-inspired restaurant serving freshly made dishes, inspired by tastes from India and across Asia. Booking is recommended. Located at all Center Parcs villages.
- Sports Café. Open all day and no booking required, the Sports Café has a range of options for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. Live sports are also streamed onto the multiple large screens when there is a big game, and there is also a play area for children. Located at all Center Parcs villages.
- The Pancake House. Popular restaurant serving sweet and savoury pancakes, Belgian-style waffles, and omelettes. No booking required. The Pancake House is also well known for its prime location overlooking the lake next to the beach. Located at all Center Parcs villages.
- Café Rouge. Serving classic French cuisine, Café Rouge is the ideal restaurant for lunch or dinner. Booking is recommended. Located at all Center Parcs UK villages.
- Bella Italia. Offering Italian classics, along with lighter dishes and even a menu of smaller dishes for children. Booking is recommended. Location varies by village.
- Las Iguanas. With Brazilian, Mexican & Latin American food & cocktails on offer, Las Iguanas is a great choice for lunch or dinner. Booking is recommended. Located at Woburn Forest and Longleat Forest.
- Foresters' Inn. The perfect place for a family meal, Foresters' Inn' caters for all ages and tastes. Booking is recommended. Location varies per village.
- Strada. Contemporary Italian restaurant offering freshly prepared dishes, with an extensive menu including hand-stretched pizzas, fresh pasta, and risotto, along with grilled meat and fish. Booking is recommended. Available at Woburn Forest.
- The Lakeside Inn. Situated at the edge of the lake, The Lakeside Inn is a contemporary pub offering local produce, traditional daily carvery, and a selection of real ales. Booking is recommended. Available at Whinfell Forest.
- Dining In. Along with a range of restaurants, Center Parcs also offers the option of delivering a takeaway straight to your lodge, or collect it if you prefer. Choose from a range of international cuisines, and have your food delivered for a small charge. Available at all Center Parcs villages.
- Dexters Kitchen. Offering handmade burgers, salads and small bites, barista coffee, ice creams, and Millie's cookies, and more. Open all day, and no booking required. Location varies by village.
- Leon. Fast food restaurant offering healthy options, inspired by the flavours, variety, and natural healthiness of Mediterranean cooking. No booking required. Available at Woburn Forest.
- Canopy Café. Situated in the heart of the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, the Canopy Café offers quick snacks and treats, including drinks. Open all day, and no booking required. Location varies by village.
- Leisure Bowl. After a game of bowling, choose from a range of cocktails, soft drinks, premium spirits, beers, and bar snacks. No booking required. Available at all Center Parcs villages.
- Monty's. A poolside restaurant serving meals and snacks, including traditional and loaded hot dogs, nachos, pizza, doughnuts, churros, slurp milkshakes and ice-creams. No booking required. Available at Woburn Forest.
- Starbucks. Serving hot and cold drinks, with a selection of breakfast bites, sandwiches, and savoury treats. No booking required. Located at all Center Parcs UK villages.
- Vitalé Café Bar. Situated within the Aqua Sana Spa and only available with a spa booking, choose from a selection of drinks, salads, tapas, and pasta dishes. Available at all Center Parcs villages.
- ParcMarket. A mini supermarket in the heart of the Center Parcs Village Square. The ParcMarket offers more than 2500 lines, including favourite brands, organic and gluten-free products, fresh fruit and vegetables, and selected local suppliers. There's a bakery providing freshly baked bread, croissants, and pastries. You can pre-order selected grocery packs before you arrive, with free delivery to your lodge. If you visit the ParcMarket and spend more than £40 or €40, you can have it delivered to your lodge free of charge. Available at all Center Parcs villages.
- The Coffee House. Serving coffee supplied by Java Republic, you can meet your friends and family here for a coffee, or even a long brunch. No booking required. Available at Longford Forest.
- Cara's Kitchen and Bar. Exclusively at Longford Forest in Ireland, Cara's Kitchen and Bar is an all-day dining and family-friendly option. Booking is recommended. Available at Longford Forest.
- Good Spa Guide Awards - Best Destination Spa. November 2019
- Better Society Awards - Best Scheme to Encourage Staff Fundraising. May 2019
- Menu Innovation and Development Awards (MIDAS) - Best Menu in Leisure & Travel. March 2019
- Good Spa Guide Awards - Best Spa in the East Midlands and East. November 2018
- Tommy's Awards - Best Family Friendly UK Holiday Provider. April 2018
- Good Spa Guide Awards - Best for Design. November 2017
- MadeForMums Awards 2017 - Gold Award for Family Holiday. April 2017
- Tommy's Awards - Best Family Friendly UK Holiday Provider. April 2017
- Tommy's Awards - Best UK holiday provider. March 2016
- Professional Beauty Awards - Residential Spa of the Year: 11 Rooms or More. March 2016
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Center Parcs UK.|
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