Now home to more than 50 different businesses and organisations, ranging from small family enterprises to corporate tenants, the park has recently been named the South & Vale’s Business Space of the Year. Howbery Park has sustainability at its heart, and, as it celebrates its 25th anniversary, we highlight some of the park’s significant milestones along the way.
The Environment Agency (EA), known at the time as the National Rivers Authority, was the park’s first tenant, and started life at Howbery Park in several small buildings. 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 the ‘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. With each of these new buildings, the aim was to show a model of best practice in sustainable office development. The projects have managed to demonstrate that a small increase in building costs can result in significantly reduced carbon emissions and greater efficiency, while at the same time creating light and well-ventilated working environments for their occupants.
In 2011, Howbery Park became the UK’s first solar-powered business park. The adjacent solar farm generates around a quarter 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 2018, enough electricity was also exported back to the grid to supply 20 average size homes for a year.
In 2017, the park undertook another major energy-saving project, installing high-efficiency boilers. This has led to further significant carbon savings, and was followed in 2018 by the installation of electric vehicle charging points. Since 2012, the park’s waste has been zero to landfill.
But 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, Count de Morney who completed the building in 1860, and Henry Bertie Williams–Wynn, a solicitor, who purchased the house in 1867. The house has even hosted royal visits, including Prince Henry who camped as an ordinary soldier at the park in 1927, through to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who visited the house in 1956 as part of a tour of the then government-owned Hydraulics Research Station who occupied the site from 1951. This led to the creation of a water science cluster at Howbery Park which continues to develop today.
Whilst 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. Beehives producing the park’s own honey were introduced in 2016.
Howbery Park also 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.
Estates Manager Donna Bowles is proud of what has been achieved and is looking ahead to the next chapter in Howbery Park’s story. “Much of the park’s success to date has been down to the vision and enthusiasm of former Howbery Business Park Chief Executive, John Ormston, who oversaw the park’s development for many years. We are very much aiming to build on what John started, continuing to make the most of Howbery Park, expanding sustainably whilst preserving the park’s unique character and landscape. I am privileged to work with a fantastic team of people, and we are now looking forward to working on the future development plan for the park’s next phase.”