Trust announces housing plan to secure long-term future of Wicksteed Park

Retirement homes could be built to provide income for the Kettering park

Friday, 26th March 2021, 1:18 pm
How the retirement homes could look

Retirement homes could be built at Wicksteed Park as part of plans to secure its long-term future.

The Wicksteed Charitable Trust has announced a new partnership to help safeguard the long-term future of Wicksteed Park and allow the charity to continue offering free access to visitors.

The joint venture will utilise the least-used area of the park, turning it into a development of single-storey retirement homes while allowing the charity to retain ownership of the land used for the scheme.

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The proposed development will provide a sustainable long-term income for Wicksteed Park from a suitably scaled retirement village accessed through the park itself, and not roads connected to existing local housing.

The project, partnering with Northamptonshire-based provider New Chapter Villages and Rushden-based Prestige Homeseeker, the UK’s leading park home manufacturer, will provide single storey retirement accommodation, of which there is a shortfall in Northamptonshire.

It is hoped that the innovative scheme will provide a much needed, sustainable annual income for the park.

The trust says the Wicksteed Park Village project will also fulfil one of founder Charles Wicksteed’s dreams, providing a garden village within the park for people to live in, as well as creating a number of new full-time jobs.

The plans, which are due to be submitted to Kettering Council for consideration, are for the site of the former nine-hole golf course adjoining the rear of the park’s existing camp site.

They almost exactly mirror the plans Charles created for his Barton Seagrave Garden Village project when the park first opened in 1921.

The project has already received positive feedback from Historic England, the public body that looks after the country's historic environment, with the homes designed to match the bungalows Charles had envisaged for the land.

Oliver Wicksteed, chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, which owns the park, said the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the park had highlighted the need for a more sustainable income to ensure that it remained open and free to access.

He said the level of annual income from the scheme would only be known once it had been finalised and been through the planning process, but he hoped it would make a significant contribution to securing Wicksteed Park’s long-term future.

He said: “This is about the survival of the park and also providing facilities for the community in the form of a retirement village, creating single storey accommodation, of which there is a shortage in the county.

“Due to the effects of Covid-19 we have been at risk of losing the whole park in the last year and we never want to be in that position again.

“Money which has been raised through the community and grant support from the likes of The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage have been invaluable in the last year.

“Realistically we need that level of support year-on-year in order to safeguard the park’s future.

“In the past we have had to resort with much reluctance to selling off land to meet a vital financial need. That money only lasts so long, and we are then back to square one, but with less land available to sell.

“This new development will allow us to generate income and retain the land.”

The trust says Wicksteed Park Village will meet a need for housing for the rapidly-increasing ageing population, which is currently significantly undersupplied.

It will offer a permanent, secure, gated community for the over-55s, along with access to varying degrees of support and care to meet their needs.

Each park home will be individually built to owner specifications and future-proofed for changing circumstances, for example: wheelchair friendly, wider doorways, level threshold doors and wet rooms.

Oliver Wicksteed added: “We are finally delivering the village that Charles Wicksteed wanted, as well as providing much needed investment into the park whilst delivering the charitable outputs and refurbishment of buildings and structures that are in urgent need of repair.”

A website is due to be launched in order to provide further information about the project and for people to ask questions about it.