However, with changing demographics, people are looking more and more for inner-city living and with urban regeneration being at the forefront of our minds, derelict waterside sites are at long last being returned to the public domain.
The British Waterways Board, the UK's largest navigation authority, owning some 2,000 miles of inland waters, is also active in the regeneration game. Last week the Government announced a new package to enable the BWB to continue its conservation work.
A recent study, commissioned by the BWB, of six canal development schemes showed that they had succeeded in increasing employment and visitors to the areas. By enhancing the local environment, residential property prices nearby rose by up to 20 per cent.
House-builders too are now helping to regenerate riverside sites and defunct dockland areas. The massive development work at London Docklands over the last 10 years, which continues, is a good example of how areas can be rejuvenated.
Along with building attractive residential or mixed-use schemes along the water, developers are renewing cycle paths, walkways and river frontages which local councils do not have, or wish to allocate, the funds for.
St George, for example, has a number of schemes along the Thames from the Isle of Dogs in the Docklands, east London, down to Kingston upon Thames in Surrey. At Lockes Wharf in E14, a development of 424 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and 40 three- and four-bedroom town houses, the company is creating a new riverside walkway with public access to the site. There will be a restaurant, square and water feature built for the benefit of the general public, as well as the apartment owners. Prices range from pounds 104,950 to pounds 384,950.
At Charter Quay in Kingston, 213 apartments, five four-bedroom town houses, a fitness centre, a 550-seat theatre, restaurants and retail units will be built. A new public access will be built through the site, linking the historic Market Square with the river, and a new riverside walk will be created. St George will also be restoring Hoggsmill Creek, putting new bridges over this and creating a wetlands area for local wildlife.
"This three-acre section of land has been shut off for years," says Tony Carey, managing director of St George. "It is particularly satisfying doing this sort of development because everyone is a winner. We are hoping to provide new homes, a new place for families to go, new jobs and new access to the river."
Prices will range from around pounds 150,000 up to around pounds 350,000.
In central Leeds, Berkeley Homes, in partnership with British Waterways, is planning a pounds 100m waterside property development, adjacent to the River Aire and the Royal Armouries. On the 14-acre site, there will be a mix of residential, leisure and commercial properties creating a link along the waterfront from the city centre, through the Calls to the Royal Armouries. Knight Frank will be selling the properties.
In South Wales, a massive pounds 2.4bn regeneration programme is under way at Cardiff Bay. By next spring, the long-awaited barrage should be in place, turning the smelly, muddy landscape into an attractive waterside location. Some 2,700 new homes are being built overlooking this new 500- acre freshwater lake, along with an assortment of commercial enterprises including a five-star hotel and a sports stadium. The American Bank One is building its European headquarters there.
One of the house-builders is St David, which is putting up 226 apartments and town houses at Adventurer's Quay, the first residential development by the new Inner Harbour. The company has also spent pounds 70,000 building a bridge which gives public access from the residential to the commercial area.
Two thirds of the development is already sold with properties available ranging from two- and three-bedroom apartments priced from pounds 87,500 to pounds 315,000. Euan Cresswell, managing director at St David, says: "It is already a very vibrant community. There is an assortment of restaurants and a leisure centre with 12 cinemas, all very busy, and the Welsh Assembly will be just 200 metres from our site. We recently brought back a couple of purchasers who bought last year and they were very surprised and impressed with how things have progressed."
And at Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, McAlpine Homes Midlands is regenerating a former industrial site next to the Grand Union Canal. The scheme will consist of 10 three-bedroom houses and 88 one- and two- bedroom apartments and the company is creating a communal residents' walkway which runs adjacent to the canal. Prices start at pounds 75,995.
British Waterways Board, 01923 226422; St George, 0181-917 4000; Knight Frank, 01132 461533; St David, 01222 451085; McAlpine Homes, 01926 339365Reuse content