Not every business park can boast a historic manor house surrounded by legacy trees and an estate which can be traced back to the 15th century, but then Howbery Park is proud to be a business park with a difference.
Located just outside Wallingford in South Oxfordshire, the park has come a long way in its 25 years.
Today Howbery Park is home to over 50 different businesses, ranging from family enterprises to large organisations. The park’s diverse range of businesses creates a unique park community. Howbery Park also has a long-standing water science and technology cluster which continues to grow.
We spoke to estates manager Donna Bowles, to find out about the significant milestones in Howbery Park’s development
The Environment Agency (EA), known at the time as the National Rivers Authority, became the park’s first tenant in 1994, occupying several small buildings across the park. The EA is now one of the site’s major occupiers in state-of-the-art 35,000 sq ft Red Kite House which opened in 2005, and which was awarded Best Bespoke Office Development outside Central London, in the same year.
Four years later, a second BREAAM Excellent-rated building, Kestrel House, was built to mirror Red Kite House for park landlord HR Wallingford, the former government-owned Hydraulics Research Station. With each of these new buildings, the aim was to show a model of best practice in sustainable office development. Both building projects demonstrated that a small increase in building costs could result in significantly-reduced carbon emissions and greater efficiency, while at the same time creating light and well-ventilated working environments for their occupants.
Red Kite House and Kestrel House incorporate a number of different sustainable features. These include a rain-water storage system which collects surface water from the roof to recycle it, and a cooling system which works by extracting water from a borehole before returning it to the River Thames.
In 2011, Howbery Park became the UK’s first solar-powered business park. The adjacent solar farm (not under the park’s ownership) generates around 25% of the park’s annual energy needs. Across the sunny summer months of 2018, this rose to an impressive 40%, with occasional periods when the park was completely grid-free.
In 2017, the park undertook another major energy-saving project, installing high-efficiency boilers to replace older plant. This has led to further significant carbon savings, and was followed in 2018 by the installation of electric vehicle charging points. Since 2012, Howbery Park has been proud to say that all waste generated on the park – including plastic waste – has been zero to landfill.
Howbery Park and its manor house can also boast a much longer and unique history. There is evidence that Howbery Park had a former manor house as far back as the 15th century which Henry VII visited in 1489. Meeting rooms which can be booked in the present manor house carry the names of various noblemen and political figures from its fascinating past. These include William Blackstone MP, who bought the estate in 1833 but tragically never saw the house finished, and Henry Bertie Williams–Wynn, a solicitor, who purchased the house in 1867.
While embracing new technology to improve the park, today’s estates team also takes its responsibility to care for the 70-acre landscaped parkland and Grade II listed manor house very seriously. Many of the park’s mature trees are protected with tree preservation orders, and new planting ensures a healthy balance of trees will be preserved across the park for the future. Bee hives producing the park’s own honey were introduced in 2016.
Howbery Park places a real focus on maintaining a sense of community on the park with on-site activities and amenities such as free-to-use pool bikes, and allotments which were introduced in 2017 and which went on to win a Green Apple Award. There are also plenty of open spaces to practice team sports, or simply to enjoy a lunchtime walk, all helping to encourage a healthy work-life balance.
Bowles is proud of what has been achieved and is now looking ahead to the next chapter in Howbery Park’s story. “Much of the park’s success is down to the vision and enthusiasm of former Howbery Business Park chief executive, John Ormston, who oversaw some major milestones in the business park’s development. I am privileged to work with a fantastic team of people at Howbery Park, and we are now looking forward to working on the future development plan for the park’s next phase. It is very much our aim to build on the park’s legacy, and continue to make the most of Howbery Park, expanding sustainably while preserving the park’s unique character.”
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