Property Hot Spot: Des res includes on-site parking for eight reindeer; The North Pole

EVERY YULETIDE, one of the coldest regions on earth is a hot spot - the North Pole. Only one property exists at the Pole itself, and although it is far from lavish, it is a large and interesting piece of real estate which, should it ever come on to the market, is sure to attract considerable interest.

The occupier is an elderly man who would seem ripe for joining the bungalow brigade. Managing director of his own global delivery firm, he is corpulent well into the red zone, and his job is physically punishing, even though he works only one day a year. He nevertheless seems determined to see his lease out, even though it still has about 550 years to run.

The property itself contains - in estate agent terminology, comprises - a massive workshop, ample staff accommodation and on-site parking for a minimum of eight reindeer.

The lease contains a highly unusual restrictive covenant. These covenants generally prohibit work altogether or strictly limit the kind of work that may take place in a property, but these premises must be used as a workshop producing children's toys. This highly unusual covenant is the notorious sanity clause.

Several countries claim the property. The Arctic Circle includes parts of America (Alaska division), Canada, Greenland, Finland, and Russia.

Santa's familiar red and white are the national colours of Canada. Danish children address their letters to the "Julemanden" in Greenland, and receive replies.

In fact, Santa replies to children from many countries. Erja Tikka, press counsellor at the Finnish Embassy, says: "These other countries don't have reindeer, and our Santa post office receives 700,000 letters a year, so Finland has clearly won

that competition."

Try telling that to the Canadians. Lynne Boyer of Canada's Office of Strategic Communications Planning, notes: "The North Pole is on Canadian territory, so Santa is, technically, a Canadian citizen."

In Finnish Lapland, Mr Claus maintains an office, complete with Web server and Internet address, at Napapiiri, near Rovaniemi, and he makes daily appearances in nearby Korvatunturi. This part of Finland has abundant ice and snow but is hardly the most northerly of Finnish towns and villages and, for nearness to the North Pole, might as well be in Ecuador.

Canada's northern territories are also closer to the Pole and contain a huge swathe of government-owned land ideal for squatters. The Canadian High Commissioner has revealed, almost exclusively to The Independent, instructions for building an igloo based on Inuit building practices.

For starters, says the helpful information sheet, you need plenty of snow and, rail officials in Britain will be heartened to learn, preferably the right type of snow - crunchy and hard-packed.

The blocks are laid down in a spiral shape, and the entire structure's strength depends on the placement of the final block at the tip. Large families can be accommodated in several igloos connected by passageways.

Crucially, "the best location is beside a gently sloping hill." Even for igloos, location is everything.

Lowdown

Transport: The world's most northerly railway line is at Ny Alesund, Norway. Otherwise, transport goes to the dogs.

South-facing gardens? At the North Pole, they all are.

Council tax: For 1998/1999, Band A: Frankincense. Band H: Myrrh.

"No, it's not my vanity number plate": The correct postal code for Father Christmas in the United Kingdom is SANTA1, and in Canada it is HOH HOH. His Finnish website address is http://www.santaclausoffice.fi

Furs R Us: Shopping options are limited. When winter arrives there is not much to do except wait six months for summer and daylight to return. Otherwise, the Arctic has waterfalls, geysers, sulphur, mud and mineral pools, dog-sledge races and the Northern Lights. Rovaniemi is a winter-sports resort.

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