Getting a buzz minutes from work

Moving in: the attractions of inner-city dwelling.
As large numbers of people stream out of cities searching for the good life, so similar numbers return to urban living. For them, the buzz of the city and the convenience of being close to where they work are significant attractions.

This change of heart has primarily been brought about by two factors: the regeneration of many inner-city areas, and increased traffic and travel costs, which make regular commuting such a nightmare. For many, the time wasted by delayed trains and buses and chock-a-block roads has become too much. In London, Clerkenwell, Spitalfields, Finsbury and other city fringe areas are slowly being brought back to life.

"Some purchasers who have bought in Clerkenwell do not even own cars. They walk to work," says Alfie Buller of Bee Bee Developments, which is transforming nearly eight acres of mostly redundant commercial buildings into a new, vibrant area where residents and workers live alongside each other, keeping the place humming both by day and by night.

Although it is often creative types who buy the more architecturally challenging lofts, which are part and parcel now of inner-city regeneration, barristers, accountants and other professionals are also moving into these spacious homes. "People who have serious lifestyles like their home to be a little different," says Richard Artus of city agent, Urban Spaces.

"We see purchasers who may have lived in Fulham, for example, and who are just fed up with strap-hanging on the tube twice a day and living in a small, two-bedroom box. Here they can have space around them and live five minutes from their work."

David Salvi, of agents Hurford Salvi Carr, reckons that there will be more than 6,000 units in the city in two years' time - double the number there are now. "So many people are working long hours, commuting has become a chore. Living in the city saves them a couple of hours of travel every day. The majority will have lived in the west or south west of London before, and may have been renting for a few years.

"Now they have saved up a substantial deposit and feel secure enough in their jobs to buy, they want to live in the centre of town because that is where the action is. Once you have lived in the centre, you soon get the bug. It's not about lofts, it is about convenience."

Emma Aldridge, who works for Channel 4's The Big Breakfast, is buying in Clerkenwell. "I used to live in Blackheath, which I liked because I could leave my work worries behind, and then I rented in Islington, which is just by Clerkenwell," she says. "As soon as I moved into central London I just loved being able to hail a cab outside my door, and get to Covent Garden or the Thames in 10 minutes."

And this phenomenon is not limited to London. In Manchester, where the City of Manchester Development Corporation did much to revitalise the city centre, 4,500 people are now living there, whereas only a little more than 1,000 did in 1988. The canals have been cleaned up, the old cotton warehouses turned into smart homes, and the area is thriving again.

The planners expect about 8,000-10,000 people to be living in the inner city by the year 2000. Julie Twist of the estate agency of the same name, which deals only in the city centre, says: "This time last year we had 17 sales; this year it is up to 70. We are very, very busy.

"People are coming into the city mainly for convenience," she continues. "We get a lot of young professionals and a lot of divorcees. There is so much potential here and there is a lot of new development, which is really very smart and stylish and catering for different people's needs."

Harry Handelsman of the Manhattan Loft Corporation, which pioneered the loft market in London, is also looking seriously at Manchester. "I just need to find the right building," he says.

In Newcastle, the story is the same. Its Quayside area is being developed with new offices, restaurants and bars opening apace and the young professionals who are being relocated want to be where the action is - at the centre of town.

"There is a definite move in people living in the town centre," says Julia Redhead, of GA Properties' Jesmond office. "There is also a definite age bracket - the under-45s who do not have a family. Newcastle is attracting big company relocations and many people are moving with their job."

So if you want to be where it's at, commuting is out, inner-city living is most definitely in.

Bee Bee Developments (0171-336 0202); Urban Spaces (0171-251 6661); Hurford Salvi Carr (0171-250 1012);' The Manhattan Loft Corporation (0171-495 6707); GA Properties (0191 281 7355); Julie Twist Properties (0161 834 8486).