Property: Ideal for social climbers with a touch of vertigo

Hot Spot Peckham, South London
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Gentrification comes in different guises, stages and degrees. Peckham has already been discovered, so rock-bottom property prices have come and gone. But Peckham's progress has been tepid. Unlike Notting Hill or Islington, where prices have strato-soared, this once notorious district is still affordable.

The standard London A-Z tells interesting tales. The black lines that symbolise railway routes are thick as they depart London Bridge, but, as they thin out into various branch lines, they seem to bypass Peckham. Actually, the lines curl around and under Peckham, which in its southern reaches is rich in rail service.

Closer scrutiny shows that some streets are packed together and cluttered, but many are fairly wide apart. PhDs in A-Zs know that houses here will have large gardens and the zig-zag roads among them will be quiet.

Marc Wiehe, of estate agents Winkworth, lives as well as works in the area, which, he admits, was unsalubrious a few years ago. "The demographics are constantly changing. Peckham used to be known for crime, now it is wall-to-wall Volvos. My wife and I personally experienced more crime when we lived in Kensington."

He notes that Peckham's housing stock is good and that properties even in conservation areas are not that dear. "Rents have gone through the roof. Many people in negative equity cashed in when prices rose, chucked out their tenants and sold. Fewer flats were available to rent, so prices went up sharply," says Mr Wiehe.

For singles with really tight budgets, inexpensive ex-council flats are available. For families concerned about space and schools, large houses are available for under pounds 200,000 near the good schools that serve the area.

South Peckham has improved substantially and "is now almost indistinguishable from East Dulwich", says Mr Wiehe. "Prices on some of these roads went through the roof, but many houses are still available at prices which are good value."

North Peckham is slowly changing as tower blocks are replaced with more attractive housing, much of it council or housing-association controlled, and some of it privately held.

Another local estate agent, Stephen Smith of Bushells, notes that "outsiders tend to think that Peckham is not a good area to live in. But once they move in they stay. When they have to move, they don't leave the area. They move up within Peckham itself."

The Low-Down

Prices: Three-bedroom houses in good condition on or near Asylum Road are available for pounds 110-pounds 115,000, says Stephen Smith, of Bushells. For good value, look at Oglander, Nutbrook and Maxted roads. Fairclough is selling new one-, two- and three-bedroom flats at prices up to pounds 83,250.

Transport: Peckham straddles zones 2 and 3. No tube, but Peckham Rye overground serves Blackfriars and London Bridge. Buses are good, especially the No 12 to Piccadilly and Oxford Street.

Council tax: In Southwark, Band A is pounds 524, Band H is pounds 1,573.

Home/office: Some attractively priced shops with flats above are available. Mr Smith says: "If they are on secondary parades, you can generally get change of use for residential or home/office." As the area gentrifies, the number of empty shops should decline.

Peckham Partnership: With other interest parties, the council has reached the halfway point in a project to have 3,000 homes demolished and 2,000 new ones built by 2002. Of the new units, 60 per cent will be council owned, 20 per cent housing association, and 20 per cent for sale. "Our aim in part is to reduce housing density," says a council spokesperson.

Peckham Pulse: One of the partnership schemes, the Pulse is a complex including swimming and hydrotherapy pools, two aerobics studios, a soft play area and separate health and fitness suites. Other council projects include a modern library with media centre and a comprehensive programme to combat crime.

Peckham parks with ponds: The area is well served by Burgess Park in the north and Peckham Rye Common in the south.

Estate agents: Bushells (0181-299 1722); Winkworth (0181-299 2722); Fairclough (0171-358 9816).