Hot Spot: Hounslow, west London - Plane overhead - but price is right

FOR NOISY neighbours, it is hard to outshout Heathrow Airport, but Hounslow's attractiveness is measured in pounds, not decibels.

A paradox lies at the heart of this west London town and borough: property values are at once solid and stable thanks to the airport but prices are also affordable. Refurbished 2-bedroom freehold homes are available for pounds 70,000 on streets which may suffer very little if at all from aeroplane noise, however unsalubrious they may be in other ways.

According to a spokesperson at London's main airport, more than 55,000 people are employed at Heathrow itself, and some 25,000 work near the airport in companies which chose a west London location precisely to be near Heathrow.

"Property moves quite actively here," says Jas Rathor, negotiator at estate agent Mann & Co. "Hounslow attracts people who work at the airport or nearby, or in one of the many firms on the Great West Road. Renting is easy. People who work in the area are always looking for rentals, and there's Brunel University in Isleworth, which brings in student renters."

Mr Rathor notes: "New developments are making Hounslow more desirable. St George, Barratts and other developers have built new modern flats in Hounslow Centre which are bringing new people, and a new type of resident, to the area."

Three-bedroom Victorian houses are available for less than pounds 100,000, and two-bedroom freeholds are available for pounds 80,000. High-quality modern flats near the underground and affordably priced, and ex-council properties are also available.

Mel McMultan of Homeland estate agents reports: "Flats start at pounds 60,000 for one bedroom and rise to pounds 100,000 for three bedrooms. Two-bedroom Victorian houses start at about pounds 85,000, and three-bedroom period homes start at pounds 100,000." Three-bedroom ex-council flat on the Summerwood Estate, a massive 2,000-unit council block, sell for as little as pounds 50-55,000.

East of Hounslow Central is preferable to the west for several reasons. Hounslow East and Hounslow Central underground stations are fairly near one another. A property not near one station is likely to be near the other. But the distance between Hounslow Central and Hounslow West stations is almost twice that to Hounslow East. In addition, west Hounslow is considerably noisier.

Especially at Hounslow, which is only five miles from Heathrow, a jetliner which is directly overhead can sound so thunderous as to feel actually bone-shaking. But if the plane is a street or two away, the noise is enormously muffled. And the planes take a few predetermined precise landing routes. If you live on a quiet street, it will probably stay that way unless you move, or the runway does.

The Low-down

Transport - Heathrow West, Central and East stations are all on the Piccadilly line. Hounslow overground station to Waterloo is just south of Hounslow Centre.

Council Tax - Band A is pounds 487, and Band H is pounds 1,460, which makes Hounslow neither particularly cheap nor expensive among London councils.

Walk the Talk - At 200 acres, Hounslow Heath is not vast but special annual events include a Summer Solstice Stroll, River Dipping, and nature walks and talks.

Balls and Bowls - Tennis courts, bowling greens and playing fields are dotted in and around Hounslow, including the large Lampton Park near the underground station.

Shopping - With its Treaty Shopping Centre and pedestrianised high street, Hounslow retailers include an Argos Superstore, C&A, Debenhams, Index, Littlewoods, Marks & Spencer, River Island, Safeway and Tesco.

Fringe Theatre - The Paul Robeson Theatre on High Street offers a wide range of multicultural performances geared to a multiracial (mostly Asian) local population. Waterman's Arts Centre is located in nearby Brentford.

Noises Off - Aircraft officials and zealous locals monitor aircraft noise 24 hours a day. A Heathrow spokesman says: "We impose pounds 1,000 fines on noisy planes and give the money to the council for community causes. So far, we have contributed pounds 250,000."

Estate Agents - Homeland 0181 572 1606; Mann & Co 0181 577 1840.

Schools - Primary schools include Alexandra, Andrew Ewing, Chatsworth, Grove Road, Hounslow Heath, St Michael and St Martin RC, and Wellington. Secondary schools are Cranford, Heathland, Hounslow Manor, Lampton and St Mark's RC.