Property: Where a mall is not a mall, and a village not a village

Hot Spot: Chiswick Village, West London

Chiswick Village is in Chiswick. That much is clear and indisputable. So is Chiswick Mall. But Chiswick Village is not a village, and Chiswick Mall is not a shopping centre. Even Chiswick's reputation as a haven for well-heeled families isn't quite what it seems.

Properties in this desirable part of west London do command stiff prices, as exemplified by the seven-figure riverside homes along Chiswick Mall. But affordable flats for singles or sharers are also available, not least in Chiswick Village, which is the name both of a 280-apartment complex spread over 15 blocks and the circular (in fact, A-shaped) road that lies in front of them.

Chiswick Village looks very much like a council estate but, since this is Chiswick, even that is illusory. The estate is and always has been privately owned and was fairly upmarket at one time. A few years ago, the tenants started proceedings to buy the freehold collectively. Although ultimately successful, this was only after being enmeshed in complex, costly and bitter legal skirmishes. The tenants and their property values have only recently started to recover.

"We went through an absolute horror of dirty, lengthy legal battles against two freeholders, but we won," says Pat Salt, who has lived in Chiswick Village for eight years with her husband and two children.

Prices plummeted: "No one would lend while we were in court, and if you wanted to buy, you had to have cash," says Ms Salt. Cash-buyers tend to be investors buying to let, and in terms of commitment to the property, Ms Salt regrets that the percentage of owner-occupiers isn't higher.

During the enfranchisement proceedings, the owners had succeeded in setting groups of tenants against one another, and animosity continued even after the solicitors had finally packed their briefcases for good. "Now, prices are rising, and the old villagey spirit is slowly coming back," says Ms Salt.

"Bringing up children here was great. They could safely play on the green in front," says Ms Salt. "We have trains on both sides and a motorway on one, but you do get used to the noise." And as far as transport is concerned, it is pretty convenient: "We are near Gunnersbury station and the M4 and North and South Circular roads. The position is great." Heating and hot water are communal and most flats have balconies overlooking the green.

Chiswick Village's developer also built the so-called three Bs - Beverly, Beaumont, and Belgrave Courts - which are closer to Chiswick's high road, and more expensive.

David Bell, of Winkworth estate agents, notes that since Chiswick Village's enfranchisement, "the price gap has been narrowing, but," he adds, "if the three Bs were to enfranchise, prices would spurt up. And Chiswick Village has lower service charges."

Lowdown

Transport: Chiswick Park serves the Ealing Broadway branch of the District Line, and Gunnersbury serves the Richmond branch and the North London Line. Buses link Chiswick with Hammersmith, Hounslow and Richmond.

Prices: A reasonable two-bed flat in Chiswick Village sells for about pounds 115,000, and for pounds 140,000 in the three Bs. "Some flats in the three courts have a reception room and a separate dining room," says Winkworth's Bell. In Chiswick Village, flats needing work and lacking balconies can sell closer to pounds 100,000.

Going to Court Again:

Other affordable blocks of flats in Chiswick include Dewsbury Court, Watchfield Court, Sutton Court and Arlington Park Mansions. Examine room size and, with ground floor flats in the three Bs, ask questions about the hot water pipes below the floor.

It's Your Shout: Pubs, cafes and restaurants on Strand on the Green are nearby.

Council Tax: Hounslow's Band A is pounds 487 and Band H is pounds 1,460.

Taking the Waters: Chiswick Village used to have a pool, and the three Bs still have a communal small outdoor pool. Otherwise it's Edensor Road or Fountains Leisure in Brentford.

Whistler's Roundabout Here: Hogarth and Whistler both rest in the cemetery near the Hogarth Roundabout.

Estate Agents: Foxtons (0181-996 6000); John Spencer (0181-995 4321); Sworn & Co (0181-995 3076); Townsend Tyser Greenwood (0181-994 7022); Whitman & Co (0181-747 8800).

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