Property: Poets should apply to buy now

Hot Spot Acton, west London
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Acton wasn't always a bedroom community for people whose first, second and third choices were Chiswick, Ealing and Hammersmith. In the 1800s and lasting into the present century, Acton was convenient for workers in various industries which, thanks to local wells, came to include more than 200 hand laundries. Then, it was known as Soapsuds Island.

Now, "Acton is a place you drive through unless you have business here," says Nicola Liddiard, manager at estate agent Rolfe East. "It's a stepping stone. Young couples sell flats in Ealing and Chiswick, buy in Acton, then when they have children move back to Ealing or Chiswick because of the schools."

But for certain groups the schools here are the lure, such as the King Fahad Academy on Bromyard Avenue, the Japanese school on Creffield Road, the Greek Embassy School on Pierrepoint Road, and the Barbara Speake Stage School on East Acton Lane.

Ms Liddiard recommends leafy Acton Town and Poets' Corner, and the often- overlooked but money-making homes around the South Acton Estate. The Goldsmiths Almshouses on East Churchfield are particularly picturesque.

Enjoying a degree of credibility unusual for an estate agent, Ian Stone of Bushells has put his money where his mouth is in recommending Acton; he recently bought a house in Poets' Corner. "It has easy access to central London and to lovely restaurants in Chiswick, and the council is regenerating the High Street."

Road pedestrianisation and tree planting are included in the Conservation Area Partnership involving Ealing Council, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Grants are available to repair and renovate buildings of historical and architectural interest, including shopfronts.

When Tony Carey lived in Acton in the Seventies, "I could buy a house in Acton instead of a flat elsewhere." Now a property developer whose High Street flats, Coopers Gate, are nearing completion, he is attracted to the area for the same reason: "Acton represents good value, so we could afford to buy and build and offer excellent value. Our flats would cost 30 per cent more in Chiswick, Shepherd's Bush or Ealing."

Prices are currently stable, but the long-term future looks bullish. Mr Stone says that, until the recent slowdown, Acton enjoyed above-average price increases of approximately 25 per cent over the previous 18 months.

The stigmata typifying gentrification - growing numbers of German automobiles, a Korean restaurant at Cooper's Gate - are beginning to appear. Critical mass will eventually be reached, and then buyers will begin to choose Acton for itself alone and not its prestigious neighbours.