Center Parcs identifies site for £400m holiday park in Sussex

UK: Holiday village company Center Parcs has secured an option agreement to acquire privately owned woodland in West Sussex and build a holiday park worth up to £400 million, that would create up to 1500 permanent jobs and an additional 1000 during the construction phase.

In line with Center Parcs’ traditional offerings at other parks, the 553-acre site, located at Oldhouse Warren off Balcombe Road, Worth, would include self-catered lodges, a range of indoor and outdoor leisure facilities, a Subtropical Swimming Paradise, a variety of restaurants and shops, and an Aqua Sana Spa.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Following an extensive search, the 553 acres of woodland has been identified as a suitable site due to its location to the south of London and its excellent transport links.

“Center Parcs will now undertake rigorous site surveys and pre-planning works to ensure the woodland meets the specific requirements of a Center Parcs village, as well as carrying out a programme of community engagement with a view to submitting a planning application to the local authority in due course,” they added.

Center Parcs CEO Martin Dalby said: “It is really exciting to have identified a potential site for another Center Parcs village in the UK. The proposal we will be submitting will create a significant number of jobs and bring major benefits to the local and national economy.

“Today’s announcement marks the first step of a long journey and there is still a huge amount of work to be done before we can submit a planning application. As a business, we take our responsibility to the local community extremely seriously and look forward to sharing our plans as they progress,” he added.

Center Parcs Europe was founded in the Netherlands in 1967, before opening its first park a year later in De Lommerbergen. The company now owns 22 Center Parcs resorts and four Sunparks resorts in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France, with a further four parks in development.

The three UK sites, at Longleat Forest in Wiltshire, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, and Elveden Forest in Suffolk, separated from the company in 2001 and came under the ownership of Center Parcs UK.

Global commercial real estate firm Brookfield Property Partners acquired Center Parcs in 2015 for more than £2.4 billion.

Brad Hyler, managing partner and head of European Real Estate at Brookfield Asset Management, said: “Center Parcs is the destination of choice for short breaks in the UK and as owners we are excited to support its expansion with plans for the sixth UK holiday village. We look forward to continuing to work with the Center Parcs team on delivering this exciting development and the economic benefits it will bring to the local area.”

The Times reports that Brookfield has held on to the investment for longer than it originally intended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the proposed new site in Sussex would enhance its growth prospects.

Speaking to the newspaper, Dalby said: “The exit question is one for Brookfield but you can form your own opinion about that. They’ve owned us for six years. Obviously the last 18 months have been challenging for everyone, but the new project is a good message.”

Investment has been pouring into the holiday park sector despite the pandemic, with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners investing £250 million in Away Resorts last month and KKR buying Dutch vacation parks company Roompot from PAI Partners for $1.12 billion [€1 billion] last June.