Property: Welcome to television country

Hit series set in beautiful scenery can do wonders for local house prices. But the opposite can also be true, as worried residents of the Lake District, setting of the BBC's top drama, are discovering
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RESIDENTS OF Ullswater in the Lake District are up in arms over the effect the BBC's hit television drama series The Lakes is having on the locality. Now in its second series, Jimmy McGovern's stirring shocker has lured thousands of extra visitors to the area.

Residents are right to be concerned how this may affect the local property market. It's nice to be in the limelight, but if a previously tranquil haven is transformed into an overwhelming tourist trap, house prices could plunge by thousands.

Although the expensive chocolate-box dramas can create considerable positive interest in an area, if too much grim reality is portrayed - such as the accident-prone Bristol as seen in Casualty or the unglamorous Liverpool of Brookside - it is hardly going to produce a Kensington price tag.

"If an area becomes famous because of television you might find that it detracts from people wanting to live there - if it gets too high a profile, with too much traffic and too many tourist attractions and visitors," says Clive Hopkins, partner of agents Knight Frank.

Areas that are often filmed, such as the photogenic Royal Crescent and the area around Box Street in Bath, can have television production staff installed so regularly, creating disturbances and pilfering parking places, that it can put people off wanting to live there all together.

With more than 160 episodes broadcast since the pilot in 1973, the BBC's Last of the Summer Wine is Britain's longest-running sitcom. Set in a beautifully-filmed Yorkshire Pennines steeped in nostalgia, the programme has brought a huge number of visitors to the area over the years.

The programme is filmed around Holmfirth, near Huddersfield, and local estate agents have no doubt that the programme has had a sizeable effect on the property market.

"Although people wouldn't buy here just because they've seen the programme, it certainly encourages them to come here in the first place," says Beverley Fisher, manager and valuer of Halifax Property Services in Holmfirth.

"The way the programme shows the area is picturesque and, in making the place popular, it makes it more saleable. It's certainly more expensive in the Holm Valley area, - prices are always in excess of those in similar villages nearby."

Halifax at Holmfirth (01484 685511) currently has a two-bed cottage for sale at New Mill, a semi-rural location close to what is described as "Summer Wine" country. It costs pounds 64,950. At the town's Cliff Road, a stone- built Victorian three-bedroom property with good views of the Pennines is for sale at pounds 72,000.

The North Cornish port of Padstow has recently been experiencing a property boom believed to be caused almost solely by a star chef's television series. Since Padstow resident Rick Stein has appeared on the BBC to present A Taste of the Sea, Fruits of the Sea and the current Seafood Odyssey, prices have risen sharply in the area. Locals have even labelled the port "Padstein" because of television's effect on the area.

"Last year, 91 per cent of everything was sold to people outside the county and 67 per cent was for second homes, and so the sales were obviously assisted by the programmes," says Michael Ivens, branch manager of Black Horse Agencies in Padstow.

"People know that they are easily able to obtain income from holiday home rentals as the season has now extended from six to 10 months a year since the programmes were first broadcast."

Stein has featured Padstow in his programmes and has a restaurant, cafe and hotel in the area, which can only add to the attraction of the port for star-struck television viewers.

"Last year prices went up by about 3 per cent, but the year before that they went up by 20 per cent, and still the market is buoyant," says Ivens. "In the town itself, pounds 100,000 would get you a three-bed terraced cottage with no parking and little or no garden. Three years ago, it would have been pounds 85,000, and a lot of the increase is due to Stein."

Padstow's branch of Black Horse Agencies (01841 532230) currently has a five-bedroom terraced house in the town's conservation area and a three- bedroom detached bungalow at Trevone, two miles from Padstow, both for pounds 129,950.

"Goathland used to be quiet, but now it's overrun with tourists," says Michael Winter of estate agents Winters of Pickering, speaking of the village in the North Yorkshire Moors where ITV's Heartbeat is set. "It's had an adverse effect on the property market, putting off buyers.

"But although there may have been an adverse effect on the immediate locality, the programme has brought the moors to national attention. Most people used to assume this was the Yorkshire Dales, which James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small promoted.

"Many more people are buying second homes here now. In the early 1990s we wouldn't get that many enquiries, but now there aren't enough cottages available, which can be attributed to Heartbeat. We sold one in Newtondale two years ago for pounds 95,000 and it went last autumn for pounds 132,000. In Rosedale there are hardly any cottages now, while three years ago there was the pick of 12."

Winters of Pickering (01751 472766) is selling Railway Cottage, a three- bedroom Victorian workman's cottage in the hamlet of Newbridge, near Pickering, for pounds 64,950. The sitting room features a stone fireplace and exposed beams. At Lockton, a modern stone-built end-terraced three-bedroom cottage is going for pounds 75,000.

One of the small screen's most famous images is the opening titles for Coronation Street. Yet long-running television exposure for the area - Laburnham Street in the Langworthy district of Salford - has done nothing to improve property prices. Many of the terraced houses are boarded up, and General Accident confirms that properties here go for as little as pounds 5,000.

Most external filming for the hit ITV show takes place at Crich and, to a lesser extent, Fritchley, on the edge of the Peak District in Derbyshire. "I haven't seen any evidence of its effect on property values, but exposure of the village in the TV series has meant that more people are visiting, and identifying the Peak area as an attractive part of the country," says local surveyor for Black Horse Agencies, Paul Summerfield. "It's inevitable where you have a national TV series focusing on North Derbyshire."

Current properties with the Belper office (01773 826981) include a four- bedroom detached cottage in Fritchley with countryside views for pounds 175,000.

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