But through a developer's eyes, derelict spells opportunity, especially if the dereliction is of the riverside variety. Brentford, long overlooked, has been noticed.
Often forgotten within Brentford itself is Brentford Dock, a sprawling 600-unit low-rise residential estate, contained snugly within a triangular 26-acre site bordered by Syon Park to the west and the River Brent and Grand Union Canal to the east.
Built in 1978 by the Greater London Council for council tenants, 500 units were sold privately. For the time being, flats with terraces and riverside or canal views are generally available at well under pounds 100,000.
On the other end of Brentford, geographically and financially, is Regatta Point, a residential development with the looks and lush interiors of a premium Docklands dwelling. Developed by Frendcastle, Regatta Point has 58 units, including six penthouses and two mews houses. All have a balcony, terrace or patio providing river views, which also means that they are south-facing. Prices start at pounds 125,000, the large penthouses go for pounds 600,000; a half-dozen units remain, and occupancy begins in the autumn.
"We are seen as an extension of Strand on the Green," says Frendcastle's Greg Fry, referring to the popular riverside promenade on the opposite side of Kew Bridge.
"As soon as Regatta Point prices were announced 18 months ago, Brentford Dock prices shot up," says Tim Bridger, of Brentford Dock Estates Agency. And Regatta Point is just the start: "Several major projects have applied for planning permission, which has already been granted to Ferry Lane."
Ferry Lane is adjacent to Brentford Dock, bordering the River Brent and the Thames. This luxury development will have nearly 400 warehouse-style residential units and commercial properties, including a business hotel and restaurants.
A canalside British Waterways site has been approved for a mixed development of more than 100 residential units, hotels, shops and restaurants. Opposite, the redundant Grade II* St Lawrence church and Spanton Works have received planning permission for a theatre, restaurant and other community uses.
"People are moving into Brentford from Kew, Chiswick and Ealing," says Robert Pemberton, director of Winkworth, whose Putney office is handling Regatta Point. "The attraction is the river. Chiswick is cut in half by the motorway. The main part of Brentford being developed is by the river. The Butts has always been popular."
These newcomers, Mr Bridger believes, will push prices up further: "In the last 18 months, a one-bedroom flat in Brentford Dock went from pounds 65,000 to more than pounds 80,000 now. We will be competing with Chiswick in the next few years."
Mr Pemberton is also bullish: "Except for Kew Bridge Station, Brentford town suffers from poor communication, restaurants and other amenities, but plans for these are in the pipeline. I think Brentford will be virtually unrecognisable in five years." THE LOW-DOWN Brentford has parks, stately homes and good bus links to Underground stations (District or Piccadilly Line) at Gunnersbury, Boston Manor, Northfields and South Ealing; and Brentford and Kew rail stations. On the roads, there is easy access to the M4and A4 and, south of the Thames, the A316/M3. Convenient for Heathrow. HAS NO Underground, and no quiet sky. Planes land sometimes every two minutes. Most natives don't notice anymore but equally they don't welcome more landings. ISN'T BRENTFORD IN ESSEX, NOT MIDDLESEX? No, that's Brentwood. ISN'T THAT MICHELLE PFEIFFER? No, but it might be local resident Anna Ford. TOMORROW talks are under way to re-establish the ferry between Brentford and Kew Gardens. Virgin is trying out a riverbus link to and from Brentford, Westminster and Greenwich. BRAINS More than its share of museums and cultural venues, including the magical butterfly house in Syon Park, the Aquatic Experience, Kew Gardens, the Musical Museum, Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Watermans Art Centre, Boston Manor House, Gunnersbury Park Ho use and Museum, and Osterley Park House. BRAWN West London is rich in parks (Syon, Gunnersbury), greens and other venues for tennis, golf, swimming (Fountains Leisure swimming-pool has waves and flumes), bowls, fishing, jogging and bicycling. Spectators can spectate at Brentford FC. THE GOLDEN MILE Area employers include SmithKline Beecham, Virgin, Mercury, Agfa, Bull and Wang. ESTATE AGENTS Rolfe East 0181-995 2442; Winkworth 0181-788 9295; Brentford Estates 0181-400 2001. NEAREST GENERAL SHOPPING Hounslow. NEAREST CHIC SHOPPING Chiswick and Richmond. WHISTLE WETTING Riverside pubs upstream at Old Isleworth and down at Strand on the Green, and smack in the middle at Watermans Arts Centre, when it is open. The bar has a long balcony overlooking the Thames. RENT pounds 700-pounds 1,000 per month at Brentford Dock, the same or more per week at Regatta Point. ABCDEFG Join the waiting list for The Green School (girls) and Gumley House (Roman Catholic). Other primaries are St Paul's (Church of England), St John's (Roman Catholic) and Lionel Road; secondaries are Brentford School for Girls, and Isleworth and Syon for boys.