Reepham-based Original Cottages, one of the UK’s leading providers of self-catering holiday cottages, plans to increase its investment in the town with a new building.
The company, which was started by Richard and Lesley Ellis in Whitwell Street, Reepham, in 1992 as Norfolk Country Cottages, now incorporates 25 brands offering holiday cottages throughout the UK. Overall the company has 36 offices and employs around 400 staff.
The Ellis family has a real love of Reepham and has been determined that the group services hub of the business should stay in the town throughout its impressive growth.
This has seen them acquire premises in the Market Place to accommodate their expanding workforce with Carlton House and Melton House in 1993 and then Bank House in 2014. The business now employs 110 people in the town, about half of whom live in Reepham or the surrounding villages.
Original Cottages chairman Richard Ellis explained: “We thought that Bank House would be our forever home. When we moved in, we believed there was ample scope for any growth that we might have envisaged.
“The reality is that we have been fortunate to have found new and exciting opportunities to make the business bigger and better without losing its family ethos so have continued to grow at a pace that was beyond our expectations. We’re bulging at the seams already so must look for a new home.”
The company’s search led to the consideration of a number of possible buildings and development sites in and around Reepham, and the company’s directors held extensive talks with the town and district councils to assess their suitability.
At the end of the evaluation it became clear to all sides that there remained one clear possibility: a four-acre plot adjoining Reepham Surgery and Dereham Road.
Original Cottages director James Ellis explained some of the key factors they had incorporated into their early discussions about the site: “The first point to make is that we are not looking at making any changes to Smugglers Lane.
“We have been in discussion with Norfolk Highways and are looking at a new access road into the site from Dereham Road.
“What’s more, the planned new building will sit at the back of the site so won’t be visible to anyone using Smugglers Lane or to the vast majority of its residents.”
James Ellis is also keen to reassure people that the proposed new building will be sympathetically designed and in keeping with Reepham.
“The building will only have two storeys and we are committed to high standards of workmanship using traditional materials throughout,” he said. “We want to create a building that Reepham can be proud of, so it will set high environmental standards too.”
The proposed development will incorporate ample parking for all of Original Cottages’ employees, which will help free up the Station Road car park and alleviate some of Reepham’s parking issues.
A key element of the plan under development is a commitment to allocate a portion of the site to allow for future expansion of Reepham Surgery, protecting the area for the future needs of the existing GP practice. The allocated area will be at the Smugglers Lane border of the site.
The business is also determined its expansion should continue to benefit the town and its residents. Further growth should bring new employment opportunities, and the company is looking to develop apprenticeships and internships, as well as working closely with Reepham High School and College.
The company’s directors are committed to involving both staff and local residents in the planning of the new development, and will hold a series of public consultations.
The size of the project will mean the development will take some time to complete. “We are looking at two to three years before we can move into a new building,” said James Ellis.
“We will be starting the consultation process later this summer, before we instruct our architect, and will be working closely with Broadland’s planners to make sure we get it right.”
The consultation process will start with a dedicated website (www.oc-reepham.co.uk, due to be launched in early August) and meetings with key stakeholders.
A further exhibition and open meeting will be held in early autumn. Notices will be posted around the town regarding dates for these later in the summer.
For further information about the plans or to pass on your comments, please email or write to James Ellis, Original Cottages, Bank House, Market Place, Reepham, Norfolk NR10 4JJ.