Raoul Fraser should know a good investment when he sees one. He spent 10 years as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs in America before venturing into solar farms.
Now he’s turned to vacation homes and bought more than one on Sheppey. His two-year-old Lovat Parks company, named after his family’s ancestral title, has purchased seven sites across Britain, including Cornwall, Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire.
One of his first acquisitions was the Golden Leas complex in Minster. So why Sheppey?
Chief Operating Officer Sean Power and Managing Director Jo Treadgold believe the island is a hidden gem and poised for a bright future.
Sean admitted, âPeople were surprised when we invested here. But the island has been underestimated for a long time. It has award-winning beaches, breathtaking views, beautiful nature reserves and the fact that it is an hour from London is extremely appealing to our guests. “
Jo, who has been running the site since its purchase two years ago, said: “Sheppey is what the quintessential British vacation should be. I admit I was cautious when I first moved here, but now i love it.
“People need to stop berating Sheppey and start talking about his good points. They should be proud to live here.”
Sean said: âWhat’s great is that there are so many places to visit on the island – even if you have to hunt them down. There is a lot of history but very little fuss to it. subject. Maybe we need to shout louder. The island needs its own storyteller. “
He added: âIt’s a great place to explore other parts of Kent. The theme parks want to keep guests on-site is old. We encourage them to explore and crucially spend their money locally.
âWe partnered with a local nursery and negotiated a discount for our customers. We defend local restaurants and village shops and strengthen the local economy. Visitors will always want to buy an ice cream or a souvenir.
But he added: âLocal authorities can help by ensuring that the infrastructure can cope with tourists. I am still amazed that there are no brown tourist signs on the highway to the island of Sheppey. “
Jo said: “It’s good to see new restaurants opening, but Sheerness High Street looks like it can do with a little more love and investment.”
Lovat Parks puts his money where his mouth is. Last year he spent Â£ 500,000 renovating the clubhouse and installed solar panels on the roof to use ‘green’ energy. The new bar was opened by MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey Gordon Henderson.
Golden Leas has a family-friendly 250-pitch, 22-acre site with a clubhouse, playground, and heated outdoor pool at the end of Bell Farm Lane. Estuary View Park next door has 17 lodges and caravans for over 50s. The nearby Pear Tree Farm is a small residential site for nine people.
The sister site Hollybush Park, tucked away at the bottom of Oak Lane, has 65 plots, including new luxury lodges with sea views. The latest to take advantage is Pauline Bratton, 63, a retired customer service manager at ‘Orpington.
The mother of three and grandmother of three moved in with her nine week old beagle-poo called Hector.
She said: âI’ve known Sheppey since I was a kid. My parents brought me here and I brought my kids here. Now they bring their own kids. This site gives me the best of both worlds. When the grandchildren are here we go to Golden Leas for the pool and the playground. When they come home I come back for the peace and quiet. You can’t beat it. “
Lovat Parks has submitted an application to convert an empty lot next to Hollybush into a residential site to take advantage of Swale’s new council policy on holiday parks. But Jo stressed, âWe want to remain a holiday park at our other sites.
Lovat Parks claims it is the first vacation park company in the world to be B Corp certified. Jo said: âIt means customers always come first.
“We still need to make a profit but responsibly and have a positive impact on the environment, staff and local communities.”
Visitors are encouraged to “connect with nature and adopt a slower pace of life”.
Golden Leas has been voted Sheppey’s Friendliest Vacation Park three years in a row. During the coronavirus lockdown, Jo delivered boxes of food to those in need, the company sent out newsletters to all customers, phoned them and sent videos of their ‘happy homes’ to show they were safe.
Key workers were offered free housing, and the company paid for a new mast for the community radio station BRFM, based nearby.
Read more: All the latest from Sheppey here