In the shadow of the dogs' home and the iconic power station, this corner of south-west London is booming. Just don't call it Clapham.
Its dogs' home is world renowned, its power station is a landmark, a well-known bridge and park carry its name, and at its western edge it has a surprisingly attractive high street. Beware mislabelling. In rustic Bell Mead, Old Windsor, the nameplate Dogs' Home Battersea appears on a country home which houses mostly large dogs and lucky cats. And despite its eponymous bridge, Battersea is defined mostly by the area between Chelsea and Albert Bridges, although new developments are expanding its core.

Estate agent Nick Goble admits that, although Montevetro, the stepped- glass luxury tower designed by Richard Rogers Partnership, has single- handedly raised the area's profile, the Battersea boom has resulted from the cumulative impact of several major residential and commercial developments. These include Battersea Wharf, Albion Wharf, Gargoyle Wharf (the Guinness site which was squatted a few years ago), Plantation Wharf, Riverside Court, and Waterside Point.

"Prices increased by about 25 per cent last year," says Goble. "I bought my four-bed house in the Battersea/ Clapham area three years ago for pounds 190,000 and equivalent houses are now selling for nearly pounds 400,000."

Paula Leggatt of Bushells cites a similar trend in St John's Hill: "We sold a two-bed top-floor flat off this road for pounds 152,000 in January and sold it again 10 months later for pounds 185,000."

Battersea attracts buyers priced out of trendy areas north of the river, but its fate has also been intertwined with that of its traditionally pricey neighbour, Clapham. "The main uplift in the area has been due to Clapham's good schools. Families were attracted to it, then bars, restaurants and good shops snowballed on the back of it, extending into Battersea," says Goble.

Battersea remains a blend of old and new, rough and smooth. "One side of Westbridge Road contains gorgeous period houses selling for up to pounds 800,000, and the other side is council high-rises," says Goble. "I'd recommend Queenstown Road, which is undervalued and will be good for capital growth. Especially with the riverside developments, the owners here should be in for significant uplift. Battersea Square is attractive but transportation is poor.

"With many of our buyers, the Battersea name is important. They don't want Clapham. They want to live in Chelsea, Fulham or Kensington but can't afford it. They want the slightly snobby cache and prestige of Battersea," notes Goble.

Battersea's downmarket past is still in evidence, but now that it has taken hold, gentrification is proceeding rapidly. To prove it, even Battersea's canines have a home in the country.

The Low-Down

Transport: Queenstown Road into London Waterloo and Battersea Park into London Victoria constitute Battersea's rail service. There is no underground, but several bus services cross into Chelsea.

Prices: One-bed flats start at pounds 130,000; two-bed artisan cottages on the popular Shaftesbury estate sell for between pounds 210,000 and pounds 270,000, and three-bed period houses start at about pounds 300,000. Flats in York Mansions and other blocks on Prince of Wales Drive can sell for well below pounds 500,000 or, if they overlook the park or are otherwise advantaged, well above it. Ex-council studios and one-bed flats start at pounds 60,000. Akerwood estate agents is letting a one-bed basement flat for pounds 220 per week, a three-bed house for pounds 375, a three-bed split-level flat for pounds 400, and a two-bed flat for pounds 320. The Old Candle Factory by Fairview has two-bed apartments and penthouses, many with river views, on a landscaped square. Prices from about pounds 200,000. Available flats and penthouses at Montevetro start at pounds 895,000.

First-timers: Wandsworth council has schemes to help first-time buyers, such as the Priority Group Sales Scheme which enables first-timers who live or work in the borough to buy ex-council properties at a discount of 20 per cent or more. Other schemes are Right to Buy, House Purchase Grants and Do-It-Yourself Shared Ownership (0181-871 6016). Council tax ranges from pounds 247 in Band A to pounds 740 in Band H.

Power to the people: Languishing for more than 15 years, the power station, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, is supposedly going to become a complex with residential developments, two hotels, exhibition space and leisure facilities, and probably rail links to Victoria and Clapham Junction. Detailed plans should be submitted to the council early in the new year.

Battersea to you and me: The name Batrices Ege - Badric's Island - was first recorded in a document granting the island to the Abbess of, wait for it, Barking. The dogs' home was originally located in Holloway in 1860 and relocated in Battersea 11 years later, apparently due to noise complaints. Bell Mead and Brands Hatch are the home's two sites outside London.

Battersea Park: Larger than St James's and Green Parks combined, Battersea Park contains a lake, children's zoo, a deer park, art gallery and Buddhist Peace Pagoda.

Contacts: Akerwood, 0171-978 2050; Bushells, 0171-924 3888, Winkworth, 0171-228 9265; Fairview Old Candle Factory, 0171-801 9573; Montevetro, 0171-801 0200.