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Deck houses signal future at historic holiday camp

Gareth Brown at Caister

A pioneering seaside holiday village has unveiled a £2m set of modern “deck houses” for the summer season.

The investment is at Caister Holiday Park near Great Yarmouth, where there is an ongoing campaign to upgrade attractions and events to attract more visitors.

The 16 New England-style clapperboard units are the first phase of a three-year programme to add 46 deck houses to the site – which is proud of its history as the UK's oldest holiday park dating back 110 years.

It began, back in 1906, as an austere retreat for working men from London, with three bell tents, communal cold water standpipes, bans on alcohol, swearing and no loud talking after 11pm.

Now it is family-friendly holiday home for up to 4000 people which is sweeping away its ageing chalets and replacing them with modern caravans, which are easier to update - as well as adding the deck houses, which have en-suite toilets in all bedrooms, a balcony or patio and bright modern seaside-style furnishings.

General manager Gareth Brown said: “People's expectations about accommodation have changed.

“The days when people just slept in their room and spent the rest of the time in the entertainment complex have gone. They want to spend more time relaxing in their accommodation, having a barbecue, and going out to visit the area.”

And, with people seeking two or three short breaks over a longer season, heating and double glazing were essential, he added.

The deck houses aim to underline the escape from urban life the resort has offered from the start, but now with modern facilities at the park, which is run by Haven.

Its parent company Bourne Leisure has spent more than £30m in the area over the past six years ranging from new accommodation and entertainment centres to bolstering sea defences at one of its sites. It reflects a growing amount of private investment in holiday centres, hotels and pubs in the Greater Yarmouth area.

Mr Brown is also chairman of the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement Authority. It is using a levy from local traders to fund improvements and events in a bid to get more people staying in and returning to the area, enjoying a better visitor experience and spending more to support local traders.

“Bourne Leisure’s aims fit the objectives of the Business Improvement District, which promotes people working together for mutual benefit.”

The BID scheme is two years into its initial five-year programme, with a £2.4m pot of cash from 1200 levy payers being used across a range of activities, including supporting events - such as plans for a new summer air show next year - improved facilities including seafront lighting and signage, and increased marketing.

Mr Brown said: “We have a very supportive borough council here, but with tightening government purse strings we all need to pull together for a common goal. Everyone who pays in will benefit from more visitors staying longer.”