Renaissance and Renewal Project

Our successful first award of a Parks for People grant (jointly funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund) was used to get expert advice and public opinion about what we want to achieve at the Park. This was used to inform a second round bid of £2.2 million. The Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund do it this way in order to establish evidence of need, motivation, and enthusiasm and above all, the will, ability and capacity to financially sustain any developments.

The Houghton Hall Park Renaissance and Renewal project will restore the vitality of the park, celebrating local heritage and improving visitor facilities to meet the needs of a growing modern community as addressed through various public consultations. 

‘Renaissance and Renewal’ is not about looking back, but creating a legacy, built on the park’s ‘living heritage’, to protect it for future generations.

HRHelpers Quote

"It is an exciting time for the town to see the plans and hear about the proposals for this area of natural beauty on our doorstep"

Jenny Gallucci
Secretary - Houghton Regis Helpers

Who is managing the Project Open

A governing board has been formed to steer the ‘Renaissance and Renewal Project’. This is made up of individuals from: 

Houghton Regis Town Council
Central Bedfordshire Council
Greensand Trust
• the local community

The local community is represented through: 

• The Friends of Houghton Hall Park
• Various stakeholder groups

The Houghton Hall Park Project Manager is Caroline Romans
Tel: 0300 300 6112

The Houghton Hall Park Project Officer is Nicole Kenny
Tel: 0300 300 6940

Making the best use of the money Open

We have successfully shown The Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund that:

• the community values the park as part of their heritage

• the park meets local social, economic and environmental needs

• the development and sustainability of the park actively involves local people


Plans and designs, ideas and concepts have been evidenced through: 

public consultation

• historical research

• ecological

• topographical (land) and arboricultural(tree) surveys

• the development of a fully costed 10 year ‘management and maintenance’ plan

What are the timescales? Open

January 2016

Archaeological investigations on the site of the new visitor centre to be built


February 2016

Landscape works started


May - August 2016

Kitchen Garden started


May 2016

Pathways started


November 2016

Visitor Centre ground breaking ceremony


Spring 2017

Completion of landscaping works and play installation


Summer 2017

Opening of new Visitors Centre

Why do we want to change the park? Open

Historic changes in ownership (including council boundaries) throughout the 20th Century impacted on the parkland landscape leaving it diminished and fragmented. This project addresses the restoration of landscape views and historic features.

We want to increase local pride in the park by bringing it up to benchmark national standards, such as The Green Flag Award and the English Heritage Register and Green Heritage Site Award. This will protect the park for future generations. We also want to improve and develop the park in a way that is sympathetic to its heritage and protect its current value to the community. The outline proposals developed at Round 1 were based on public consultation and were widely supported. We will continue to consult with local people, parks users and a range of other people to ensure the plans continue to reflect local views.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s Countryside Access team have an existing site management plan including maintaining wildlife and increasing biodiversity of the site. As part of the natural seasonal cycle, annual conservation management and maintenance activities include both mowing the meadow and scrub clearance. In the woodland areas a constant balance is managed: between opening up the tree canopy to benefit the people, flora and fauna below, and maintaining cover for resident and migratory birds. The diversity of landscape habitats are a heritage feature of the site and will be enhanced and protected by this project. The project’s consultant ecologists, and landscape and heritage specialists, have undertaken habitat mapping, landscape surveys, and breeding bird and bat surveys. Wildlife in the park will be protected and accommodated, whilst landscape heritage features will be identified, restored, explained and interpreted for future generations. The project may involve both tree felling and tree planting, but only in order to open up historic site-lines and to protect certain species from disease. This spring there will also be some experimental redirection of the mown 'desire lines' across the flower meadow (in line with historic sight lines discovered through recent heritage research)

The Heritage Lottery Fund's and Big Lottery Fund's "Parks for People" programme supports heritage parks to improve their condition, become better managed, and better recorded, interpreted and explained: with a view toward long term sustainability.

Detailed plans Open

The Renaissance and Renewal Project aims to create a vibrant Park landscape that serves its users, has its own integrity, and which celebrates its heritage through a range of restored heritage features, recreating the original flow and ‘feel’ of the historic parkland. The key to the project will be to use the extensive history of the site and the remaining heritage as a catalyst for learning, engagement and participation.

Park Activity Programme

A full-time Volunteering and Activities Officer will deliver a programme of organised activities within the Park to engage all sectors of the community. By Year 3 of the project it is anticipated that there will be activities on most days. This Parks for People bid includes the cost for running a range of regular and specialised activities. The Volunteering and Activities Officer will also work to train and support community groups to use the centre and park to organise and run their own activities, making Park activity sustainable in the long-term.

Volunteer Programme and Friends Group

The project will develop opportunities for participation and volunteering to encourage a sense of community ownership of Houghton Hall Park. To ensure long-term sustainable outcomes, attention will be given to:

• further developing the “Friends of HHP“ community group,
• training community leaders and volunteers to run activities,
• developing literature, maps and self-guided activities, and
• providing training and support to volunteers interested in practical tasks on the site.

The focus will be on diversifying the appeal of the scheme and the type of volunteer activities available to encourage volunteers from a wider cross section of the local community.

Young Volunteers Programme

The project will get local young people from Houghton Regis and the surrounding area actively involved with Houghton Hall Park on a long term basis. Young people will be encouraged to take ownership of the scheme and with support from the Greensand Trust will design the volunteering scheme, coming up with a name for the scheme, recommending marketing approaches and helping develop a programme of volunteer activity. Volunteer activity will potentially include environmental, oral history and research and consultation tasks, assisting with the activity programme (particularly the role model project), raising awareness of the Park to other young people and fundraising for additional equipment.

Volunteer Training

Volunteer leaders will be able to access a programme of training during Stage 2 that will give them an improved ability to manage and lead; improving the sustainability of activities and learning within the Park. Training will include managing community budget, tender processes, managing events and fundraising. All volunteers will be able to access ‘ on the job’ and practical training required to carry out tasks.

Business Supported Life Skills

The project will work with partners to deliver life skills sessions or workshops led by local businesses at the Visitor Centre for low income groups. The industrial and business parks bordering the Park to the South include the head office for Whitbread plc who we have already approached for support and who are interested in developing ideas further at development phase. These business supported workshops will be beneficial in their own right but will also provide opportunities to promote the volunteer scheme as a way of improving employability and get people involved in health and community related activities at the Park to help tackle the range of issues faced by low income communities.

College Links

The project has developed links with Central Bedfordshire College who will provide 300 hours of student volunteer time to assist with the restoration. Parts of some courses have a volunteering element, and the college is encouraging students to volunteer within the college’s catchment area.

Master Classes

Contractors will be required to undertake master classes for the general public and volunteers in restoration skills, horticulture and other relevant disciplines. Master classes will take place at both development and delivery phases.

Signage, Interpretation and Resources

The project will provide improved signage to Houghton Hall Park to address the lack of local knowledge about its existence. The People Plan, created at development phase will include an interpretation plan likely to include new interpretation boards at Park entrances, feature specific interpretation, heritage displays and interpretation within the Visitor Centre, downloadable heritage, activity and health trails and activity packs and other online heritage materials. The Plan will consider the best methods to engage local people and increase local knowledge of Park history through a combination of physical and digital resources.

Conservation Project for NEET Young People

An external provider will be commissioned to run two practical 6 week projects to work with the Landscape Architects to restore the Kitchen Garden/ and or Formal Garden. Projects would be targeted at 16-21 year olds not in education, employment or training and would involve first aid training, a minimum of seven days of practical work and two life skills workshops.


A schools resource pack, linked to the National Curriculum, will be created and schools encouraged to use the Park as an educational resource. A programme of activities for schools will be put in place to introduce them to the site over the three year project.

Visitor Centre

The development of a vibrant community centre for heritage and community learning, activity and volunteering is key to the sustainability of Houghton Hall Park. Community consultation highlights strong support for this facility with many groups and local families already expressing interest in using the facilities.

Internally the Centre will include:

•Temporary and permanent heritage exhibitions and displays using modern audio visual technology and traditional approaches

•Children’s heritage learning zone offering interactive and fun activities and interpretation for 3-12 year olds

•Flexible activity space divided by folding partitions; offering opportunities for additional heritage displays, community meetings, activities and youth sessions. The space could also be available to hire for business meetings and events in order to support the sustainability of the centre

•Research zone with access to internet enabled PC’s and heritage and history periodicals

•Retail space to showcase local arts and crafts

•Café and vending facilities


Externally the Centre will include:

•Patio area and picnic facilities

•Outdoor children’s play or climbing equipment – heritage themed wooden equipment for 5-13 year olds

Restoration of Kitchen Garden

It is proposed that the original Kitchen Garden is restored as a working kitchen garden growing fruit and vegetables and incorporating a sensory garden. Community Groups could manage zones of this garden and use the produce. Local schools, community groups and the neighbouring Redhouse Court nursing home have expressed an initial interest in managing areas of the garden.

Currently the Kitchen Garden is laid out in a semi formal arrangement with some orchard fruit trees, the result of early restoration work funded by the Urban Parks Project. At that time there was limited understanding of the historic use and lay out of the Kitchen Garden and it was believed the function of this area was as an orchard. Recent investigations have shown that the restoration plans were inaccurate and more importantly the area, in its current format has no real function or purpose either from a visual or user perspective. Current proposals will allow this area to be developed into a vibrant space with an educational and practical purpose and with the visual impact required from a key entry point into the Park.

Restoration of Formal Garden

It is proposed that this area is cleared of scrub and trees and the original formal layout of box hedging, ornamental topiary, appropriate planting recreated. A number of aerial and ground level photos show the garden layout but further investigation into planting is required.

Restoring the Historic Landscape and Making it Accessible by Modern Communities

The key to the project is to capture the historic personality of the Park whilst making it accessible and appropriate for use by modern communities. Although the Park will never be able to operate in the way it was originally designed to do so we can restore the feel of the original parkland through removing inappropriate and modern planting, restoring views, vistas and sightlines, replacing fencing with ‘historic’ estate fencing and restoring the flow of the park through restoration of original walks and rides. The Project will also improve access to the park, providing two new formal entrances to the south and west of the park and improving other semi formal entrances. Path resurfacing of the major routes through the Park, particularly through the Yew Tree and Chestnut Walks shown on the map of 1879, and in the eastern woodland, where the kennel complex was once sited, will allow greater access to people with reduced mobility.

Outdoor Tree Canopy

A canopy located within a coppice of trees at the centre of the Park will provide shelter for outdoor activities and learning in all weathers.

Interactive / Tactile Sculptures

Sculptures will be installed in key areas of the site. These will be designed as part of the interpretation proposals using art and sculpture to interpret the heritage of the site. However the installations will be more than just art; the brief for each will require the artist to make the sculptures interactive, providing activity and interest (e.g. climbable, unusual textures, hidden puzzles or learning opportunities). Each will also provide spoken interpretation about the sculpture and that area of the Park.

Park site plans Open

Formal and Kitchen Garden

Initial ideas and concepts for kitchen and formal garden as identified and used from historical research and public consultation


Heritage Centre

    Initial ideas and concepts for the Heritage Centre as identified and used from historical research and public consultation

   You can view / download the Heritage Centre plans here 

Partnership organisations Open

The Renaissance and Renewal Project will be delivered in partnership with a number of organisations:

Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund

The Heritage Lottery Fund is the largest dedicated funder of heritage in the UK since 1994; using money raised by National Lottery players to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about. You can visit the Heritage Lottery Fund website here, and find out more about the Parks for People funding scheme here

Central Bedfordshire Council

Central Bedfordshire Council is a unitary authority covering Houghton Regis, Dunstable and the region. Central Bedfordshire Council are leading the Parks for People bid to restore Houghton Hall Park. If you wish to discuss the project further, you can get in touch with Caroline Romans (HHP Manager) or Nicole Kenny (HHP Officer) / 0300 300 6112 or you can visit Central Bedfordshire Council’s website.

Houghton Regis Town Council

Houghton Regis Town Council was established in 1980 and is involved in providing services for the residents of Houghton Regis and is a key partner in the delivery of this project. To visit Houghton Regis Town Council’s website, please click here.

The Greensand Trust

The Greensand Trust are an independent environmental charity, working as a delivery partner for Central Bedfordshire Council. To visit the Greensand Trust website, please click here.

Houghton Regis Heritage Society

Houghton Regis Heritage Society are working closely with the project partners on a range of projects to uncover the history of the Park. To find out more about the group, please click here.

Consultants Team

Central Bedfordshire Council have appointed a consultant team to assist with the development of the Houghton Hall Park Renaissance and Renewal Project. The team includes:

CFP - People Plan Development

Chris Burnett Associates – Masterplan and Landscape Design

Applied Ecology - Consultant Ecologist