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Property: The green movement

These days buyers want more outside space - and developers are taking note. By Mary Wilson
People buying new homes are not only interested in the size of the property they are buying, they are also looking at what outside space is available. And with summer soon upon us, any properties - whether houses or apartments - which have access to decent-sized communal gardens are selling like hot cakes.

Ian and Gina Dwyer have bought a five-bedroom wing of Henley Park, near Guildford, Surrey, which has 27 acres of private grounds. Hencan Country Homes has converted a derelict Jacobean manor house into four large homes and is building six new detached houses, three mews houses and a pair of attached cottages in the grounds.

"We came from a detached house in Hampshire and we wanted something with character but without the problems of an old house," Mrs Dwyer says.

"We have two children, aged eight and 10 and they need a lot of room to grow up in, so this was absolutely perfect. There is plenty of space for them to run around and ample trees to climb."

The Dwyers have a portion of private land, which they like, but the best thing is that they do not have to take responsibility for the rest of the grounds. The approach to the development is through electronic gates, down a tree-lined drive and the view from the properties is magnificent.

The communal grounds include an arboretum, a meadow of wild flowers and a tennis court. The remaining eight properties, which are available through the agent, Browns, are priced from pounds 225,000 for a three-bedroom cottage up to pounds 535,000 for a five-bedroom house. The two remaining three- to four-bedroom homes in the manor house are priced at pounds 355,000 and pounds 360,000.

In London, or in any city, buying in a development which has large communal gardens is even more attractive and there are several properties now on the market which show that outside space is a major selling point.

At Westfield, in one of the busier and more built-up parts of Hampstead, off Finchley Road in north London, nine blocks of large luxury apartments are being built by Rialto Homes in the old four-acre gardens that belonged to Westfield College.

Each block takes the name of one of the trees found on the site and as many specimen trees as possible are being preserved. About two-and-a- half acres of open space will remain. Most of this is being landscaped and there is also a courtyard with a water feature and seating area.

"One of the more significant aspects of Westfield is its very large open space, which is unusual for this area," says Neville Casingena of Goldschmidt & Howland, which is selling the development jointly with FPDSavills. Prices in the first phase of 27 two- and three-bedroom apartments range from pounds 300,000 to pounds 850,000.

Lockes Wharf, a seven-and-a-half-acre site being developed by St George in London's Docklands, will have 424 one-, two- and three- bedroom apartments and 40 three- and four-bedroom town houses. About a quarter of the development will be open space with two large formal landscaped gardens with fountains, plus an ornamental water garden and a public riverside walk.

"Purchasers want to feel they are not living on top of one another," says Simon Osborne of Knight Frank, who is based at the sales office at the development. Currently available are two penthouses with two bedrooms for pounds 239,950, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments from pounds 159,950 to pounds 324,950 and one three-bedroom town house for pounds 239,950.

Much further west, but also on the Thames, is Harrods Village, which is being built by Berkeley Homes (Thames Valley). "This development is a Mecca for those who love gardening and the outdoors," says Jeff Parton, managing director of the development firm. "Gardening has become a leading leisure activity and as a result homeowners and developers are looking at maximising the size of their gardens."

Careful attention has therefore been given to creating as much horticultural interest as possible with limes and Japanese cherry trees being planted around the properties. On top of the leisure centre there will be a large roof garden that will extend to gardens beside the centre. Along the river is yet another open green area that will be landscaped.

The development is part new buildings and part conversion. There will be 127 new apartments and town houses, and the lovely old Harrods depository buildings are being turned into 123 apartments. Prices for properties currently available range from pounds 299,500 for a new two-bedroom apartment up to pounds 537,500 for a three-bedroom refurbished apartment. Sixty-two apartments are due to be released in the riverfront depository building in May.

To find three acres of grassland in the centre of a popular place like Marlow, in Buckinghamshire, is highly unusual, but this is what is being offered at Wethered Park. Charles Church has built a highly attractive crescent of town houses along with cottages and apartments overlooking all this open space, which will be private to the residents.

It will be seeded to meadow grass for people to enjoy looking at and wandering in, although dogs will only be allowed in the park if they are kept on a lead. There will also be a formal area with a gazebo. Properties still to be sold include a selection of two-bedroom apartments from pounds 265,000 to pounds 295,000 and one two-bedroom cottage for pounds 250,000.

Further information: Browns, 01483 531166; Goldschmidt & Howland, 0171- 435 4404; FPD Savills, 0171-472 5000; Lockes Wharf, 0171-531 6280; Harrods Village, 0181-741 7401; Wethered Park, 01628 4750700