The north-east is booming. So are developers - and they're running out of properties.
The north-east of Britain is currently an area of superlatives. Newcastle will have the largest Marks & Spencer in Britain, once the present one has doubled in size,;its MetroCentre is Europe's most profitable retail mall; North Shields has the largest commercial development outside London; and at the moment 67 companies are planning to move to North Tyneside. Small wonder that the north-east has the highest rate of new house building than any other region in the country. The only fly in the ointment is that Newcastle didn't win the Premier League.

Companies such as Bryant, Bellway, Persimmon and Barratt are building as fast as they can. Newcastle itself has always had a fairly small housing stock and with a population of only 250,000 has had a relatively stable housing market. "Since the crash, we have not seen huge drops in prices, nor savage examples of negative equity" says Peter Hepburn of Blackhorse Agencies.

Bryant Homes, which intends to double its output every other year in the north-east, is seeing a substantial rise in sales. Susan Latimer, regional sales manager says, "We are right out of built homes at the moment. We have had such a good last three months that everything is sold. It is very good news and we are putting up prices at some of the better sites."

Prices in some parts of Newcastle - Gosforth and Jesmond - are now very similar to those in London. Other popular residential areas are Darras Hall and Ponteland, although a core of wealthy families have recently moved out even further to Corbridge, which is now half an hour from Newcastle on the dual-carriage A69.

Malcolm Weinberg of GA Property Services moved up to Ponteland from London three years ago with his wife Gillian and two teenage daughters. "It was rather traumatic for the first six months, but after that we all settled in well. The girls have made close friends and Gillian and I have become keen Newcastle United supporters. Neither of us even liked football before.

"Newcastle is a very convenient city, it is very self-contained with everything you want within a few streets and there is a good variety of restaurants and theatres. We moved into a bigger house with more land than we could have afforded in London, and are virtually in the countryside."

The demand for three-bedroom semis and four-bedroom detached houses is growing rapidly. David Wellstead of Countrylife Homes, who himself moved up from London 30 years ago, is keenly aware of this. "My company is usually involved in commercial ventures, but I saw there was a gap in the market for high-spec executive houses in small villages within commuting distance of Newcastle," he says.

At Shotley Bridge, a village 10 minutes from Newcastle, he is building nine three- to five-bedroom houses in local stone with slate roofs and walled gardens sloping down to the River Derwent. The timber-framed houses have huge living rooms and dining rooms with central inglenook fireplaces. Prices range from pounds 150,000 to pounds 269,000.

In the second-hand market, it is also the larger homes which are being snapped up. GA Property Services, which has 15 branches in the area, cannot find enough good houses to sell. "We have done nearly a year's business in the first quarter of 1996," says Duncan Young, area sales director. "Some of the better houses are going up in value by 20 per cent on six months ago. There is quite a shortage of these and what we really need is more good quality new family houses."

One of the nicest period properties GA has just put on the market is Dissington Garden House, near Dalton. This four-bedroom, early 19th-century house is in the midst of farming land, has five acres with a large walled garden and is on the market for pounds 550,000.

Barratt launched its pounds 30 million St Peter's Marina development on the river Tyne in partnership with Tyne and Wear Development Corporation in 1987. Although this development of 361 homes is still a little out on a limb, it will become more integrated with the city once it is joined up by a walkway to Quayside. This waterfront area is being developed into a new business district, with shops, new homes, a hotel, leisure facilities and restaurants.

Barratt has started work on six new developments in the area which will create around 600 homes. "Prospects for the housing market in the north-east are brighter now than at any time during the past two years" says Mike Norton, Barratt Northern Chairman. "Our sales revenue is running seven per cent ahead of last year and the huge investments by the likes of Siemens and Samsung are going a long way to dispel any lack of confidence."

Barratt, 0345 626364; Bellway Homes, 0191-217 0717; Blackhorse Agencies, 0191-281 0744; Bryant Homes, 0191-273 2783; Countrylife Homes, 01207 545945; GA Property Services, 0191-284 5761.