The Lockinge Estate was created between 1854 and 1890 with the Manor at East Lockinge having passed to Harriet Loyd and Lieutenant-Colonel Robert James Lindsay (later Lord and Lady Wantage) upon their marriage. The formation of the Estate and the villages with their distinctive Victorian architecture began, and remains as we know them today affording a mix of contemporary facilities and rural charm for those that live and work here. Lord and Lady Wantage were pioneers of both employee and tenant well-being in their time and the Estate seeks to maintain those historical values today.

The Lockinge Estate at its height extended to some 20,528 acres. Set at the foot of the Berkshire Downs in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Estate today, including the unspoilt villages of Ardington and Lockinge extends to approximately 7,500 acres of farmland and woodland. The facilities of the villages include a pub, village store and bistro, nursery, sports club, Loyd Lindsay Rooms and Barton House a guest house with fine dining.  The Estate currently comprises around 150 residential properties, plus 60 commercial units and offices many of which result from the sympathetic conversion of the old Victorian farm buildings, as well as let farms. Although significantly reduced in size from the Estate’s heyday, there is still an Estate Yard, which under the direction of the Clerk of Works is responsible for all building construction, maintenance and refurbishment on the Estate together with the private water supply and external contracts.

The role of the Estate Office, located in Ardington, is wide and varied with the focus on the wellbeing of all aspects of the Estate including its tenants, residential, commercial and farming. Within the Estate Office the accounts department under the direction of the Accounts Manager maintains responsibilty for all the Estate’s financial matters. Barbara Donovan, a member of the accounts department said, “I have worked for the Estate for approaching 5 years. My role includes the processing of much of the day to day financial paperwork, management of a significant quantity of invoices generated by the workings of the Estate Yard and the Estate’s other interests, as well as banking and reconciliation. My key role is the management of the rent demands and collections for the properties managed by the Estate.

At the time of my joining the Estate the package used to maintain the property management aspect of the accounts fell short of our needs. We were already using Farmplan’s Business Manager software which we were very happy with, so after consultation with Farmplan and a visit to a couple of Estates who were already using the Property Manager system, we decided to make the change. We officially went live in October 2008 having run the old and new systems side by side for several months to be confident that everything was balancing correctly.

Perhaps our biggest headache before Property Manager was the monthly reconciliation involved to ensure the rental income matched the demands raised and where it did not, to identify the reasons. Property Manager has made monthly reconciliation almost a thing of the past as the software, to a great extent, does the work for us so there is a significant cost saving in terms of the hours required to reconcile the rental demands to the income received. The most significant benefit to us of the Property Manager system is its link to Business Manager. Using Farmplan’s Business Manager and Property Manager together has greatly improved record management and access to information, and the ease with which information is passed between the two systems is a major benefit to our business.

Another key feature of Property Manager is the ability to manage demands and invoices. Using the software you can calculate and generate rental demands, customize the demand layout and schedule projected or future demands as required. Incorporate this with a robust report facility and all the information required for effective property and income management is available at the touch of a button.

Barbara added, “We find Property Manager to be a very effective tool in the management and monitoring of our rental income. The information is displayed by the software in a very comprehensive manner with the processes for data entry and rent demands etc being very user friendly. We use a variety of reports some supplied as a feature of the software and some set up specifically for us. Of particular use is a report set up for us which once the demands are run will produce a report detailing various dates in the month that Direct Debits are to be taken and where tenants are due to pay us in some other manner.

When the Lockinge Estate started using Property Manager, they found a need to utilize the in-house Support Team for assistance to resolve problems and to advise on the best approach to achieve something, for example setting up a new report.

Barbara concludes, “Although we have reason to call the support team fairly infrequently nowadays they are always happy to hear from us. We have always found them both helpful and friendly, and when the person we speak to is unable to answer our query straightaway, they are more than happy to consult their colleagues and come back promptly with a solution.

Trevor Roberts, the Accounts Manager, added “Property Manager has continued to be developed during the 4 years we have used it and the enhancements have all been very beneficial. It has additional functionality which we do not use (eg. task scheduling, records of maintenance and inspection work) solely due to the way we choose to operate, but which may be very beneficial to others. It has proved to be a very reliable package with a good support system.