Property: The suburb that never sleeps: Brixton

Hot Spot Brixton, South London; The fact that it's just minutes from the middle of London helps, but what really pulls young buyers to Brixton is its vibrant night life.

Seven minutes to Victoria. That is approximately how long it currently takes to travel between Brixton and Victoria on the underground. And this time has remained fairly constant since 1971, when the Victoria Line was extended to its southern terminus at Brixton. Only in the last few years, however, have significant numbers of property buyers considered purchasing a house or flat in this convenient and still rumbustious part of south London.

Ajaye Gopal, the manager of the Haart estate agency in Brixton, has been working in the area for five years and residing there for 10. "When I arrived in 1989, the market had already slumped. Since the mid 1990s Brixton has moved forward, and I would estimate that it has doubled in value in the last three years."

This view is confirmed by Ron Davis, a Catford estate agent who monitors Brixton and who notes that "prices have rocketed in the last two years and are still rising, although flat prices seem to be levelling off".

The proximity to central London attracts young professionals but, says Gopal, "traditionally Brixton has been arty, attracting people such as musicians, and actors and actresses. On Friday and Saturday night, it is one of London's busiest areas. It has a late economy, with clubs like the Fridge staying open until 6am."

"Young people visit for the night life," he adds. "They like the friendly, easy-going atmosphere and decide to live here, so they become buyers. It is not a hostile area. The local council has invested to make the streets cleaner and the area looks smarter than a few years ago."

Brixton is generally cheaper than neighbouring Battersea and Clapham, but for many young buyers money is not the only reason for the area's superior appeal. "These people want a vibrant area, not a samey one like nearby districts that don't have Brixton's cultural mix."

Properties are sold as soon as they become available, but new sellers invariably materialise. "Many of our buyers are young, so they stay for a few years and then move on to something bigger," says Gopal. "Many do remain in Brixton. We had a sale recently involving a couple who were trading up within Brixton. We sold their house, and we also sold the house they bought, from an occupier who is taking the equity and travelling around the world."

Ron Davis says that the one part of Brixton he would advise buyers to avoid is Brixton Hill. "The best part of the area is Acre Lane running toward Clapham just behind the High Street," he believes. "One road can be hot and the road next to it not hot for no apparent reason. The estate agent who can work out why will become rich." The Low-Down

Transport

From Brixton, Victoria is four stops by Tube, one stop by the overland line. On the Tube's Victoria Line the next stop is Stockwell, which connects with the Northern Line; the next stop after that, Vauxhall, has rail links to Waterloo. Several bus routes connect Brixton to various parts of central London.

Prices

One-bedroom flats start at pounds 100,000 without, and pounds 130,000 with, garden. Additional bedrooms are available at increments of approximately pounds 50,000. Three-bedroom terraced houses start at pounds 200,000. There are many period homes, although many have been converted into flats.

Shopping

Brixton has numerous one-off shops and multiples, and six major indoor and outdoor markets, including a Sunday art & artisans market. The hole in the ground next to the Tube station is the 30,000 sq ft Central Site scheme developing five retail units. Argos, Sainsbury, Carphone Warehouse and WH Smith are interested. The scheme has been particular challenging as previous development proposals had failed (see Transforming Brixton, the Lambeth Council brochure)

Mean streets

In Brixton, one road can contain flats which, although apparently occupied, have boarded up windows, and the next road can contain Georgian terraces and green spaces that wouldn't be out of place in Islington. Some run- down areas already possess an infrastructure of fine period properties amid green spaces.

MP must be KH to be PC

Brixton has two MPs: Keith Hill (Streatham) and Kate Hoey (Vauxhall). Both are Labour, as is the council, whose chief executive is Heather Rabbatts. The area's name derives from Brixi's Stone, a boundary marker erected in the late 1800s

Council tax

Lambeth council tax, lower than the English national average, is: Band A pounds 428; Band D pounds 642; and Band H pounds 1,284.

Brixton on the Web

Property Market - estate agents and free adverts for property in Brixton and Streatham, London SW2; Brixton Drug Project - dedicated drug information server for drug information and counselling service; Panic! - Brixton poetry home page; Panther - monitoring Brixton police; Saci Cultura - salsa club in Brixton.

Cap'n, take this ship to Brixton

The Empire Windrush in 1948 and the other ships containing West Indian immigrants arrived not at Southampton but at Tilbury Docks in the East End. The newcomers were luxuriously accommodated in Peckham and the nearby Clapham Common deep air-raid shelter.

Estate agents

Gordon & Keenes, 0171-924 0242; Haart, 0171-274 2878; Walter G Elms, 0181-671 8222.

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