Property: Across the board, London is changing

Among those who have never visited London, and many who live in the city, Mayfair will forever be a rich - and expensive - navy blue, while poor Old Kent Road remains a dull brown. The reason? Monopoly, the ever-popular game which appears to have set house prices in those areas in stone. Felicity Cannell investigates whether the board's assumed property valuations still hold true.

Monopoly's fame spreads far and wide. So wide, in fact, that the US resort of Atlantic City has even named its streets after those on the board.

But while Mayfair and the Old Kent Road are still well known, what about Vine Street, Coventry Street or Northumberland Avenue? A black cab driver may know their whereabouts, but a foreign Monopoly player might be somewhat disappointed.

These streets are part of a list which Victor Watson, head of Waddington's, the games firm, compiled as prime London landmarks with his secretary after a stroll around the city in the 1930s. Today, with the massive development of parts of London that would never have been seen from a tour bus 60 years ago, it may be time to update the Monopoly board.

Savills Property Consultants ranks Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Kensington as the top three most desirable residential locations in central London.

Knightsbridge and Sloane Street would have to be the new elite areas on the new board. Harrods was, after all, world famous even before the Fayed connection. And Harvey Nichols, (Absolutely Fabulous store, darling) ranks even higher among the shopping cognoscenti.

Does Mayfair still deserve a top spot? Of course, the area is prime office location for smaller companies who want a central London base. But, as Robert Bailey of Strutt & Parker, the estate agent, points out in the inimitable sales-speak that can make silk purses out of sow's ears: "Mayfair now appears good value for money in comparison with other prime areas.

"We can only see this trend increasing with the decentralisation of many international companies in London giving up their gracious offices, converted from what were originally private houses [into] modern day office complexes."

Good value for money, indeed. For instance, Strutt & Parker has just sold a two-bedroom flat of just under 1,000 sq ft, in Charles Street, Mayfair, for pounds 250,000. With other parts of central London fetching double that amount, Mayfair may have to be off our new board.

On the other hand, Park Lane must remain in second place, with its views over Hyde Park and, partly, as access to Oxford Street. Other areas of W1, most notably "Fitzrovia", estate agent talk for the streets around Oxford Circus - Portland St, Great Titchfield St - are becoming as popular as Mayfair.

Conversions from offices to luxury blocks are dragging in residents who want a central London address, while Oxford Street itself remains one of the richest shopping streets in London, despite some of the tackier shops along its length. Bond Street also holds its place, particularly with the birth of the designer megastore - Versace, Donna Karan, and the others.

If Northumberland Avenue were to go, one would at least expect Whitehall to be unchanged. Not at all. "It seems now that nothing can be taken for granted in Westminster," says a spokesman for London Residential Research of an area with a severe homelessness problem.

The Treasury Building in Whitehall is under threat from developers, and "if 25 or more residential units are proposed, Westminster planners might just seek a social housing component. Not many people would have expected council housing in the Treasury building."

Not all changes to the board are due solely to the rise and fall in an area's fortunes. For instance, Wapping can rightfully claim the place of Fleet Street and Strand loses out to the South Bank, which along with its galleries, theatres and concert halls also has one of the new prestigious addresses in London, the White House.

The building overlooks the river, with apartments selling at an average of pounds 450 per sq ft, and penthouses at pounds 1.5m. Further along on the Albert Embankment, Peninsular Heights penthouses fetch around pounds 800 per sq ft, the most expensive being a cool pounds 3.25m.

It is now respectable (just about) to venture south of the river, so the South Bank ranks alongside Covent Garden and Soho, both of which have seen huge increases in residential desirability, particularly with the removal of Covent Garden market in the late 1970s. Residential space in both Soho and Covent Garden, nonetheless, has strong competition from the smaller trendy businesses and shops.

From Long Acre, Covent Garden, take a trip along to St Katherine's Dock. With its combination of office and residential use the Isle of Dogs easily deserves a place.

The penthouse in the Berkeley Tower, Canary Riverside, is priced at over pounds 2m, and both Fairbriar Homes and Barratt are vying to produce "one of the most sought after addresses in London", with penthouses at Dunbar Wharf and Pierhead Lock, respectively.

"That's all very well," you cry, "but I wouldn't want to live there!" You don't have to. You follow the lead of Far Eastern landlords. Buy it up, and charge everyone else the rent.

According to computer-assisted studies of Monopoly games, Vine Street, Marlborough Street and Bow Street are the most visited sites on the board. For a like-for-like comparison, we must go to the real tourist sites of Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Charing Cross Road.

Angel Islington, having moved up a peg, leaves Caledonian Road to slot in with Euston Road and Pentonville Road, which can only gaze in envy at their neighbours, the conservation area of Barnsbury and spiralling Bloomsbury.

From here it is but a short slippery slope to Whitechapel Road and Old Kent Road, which still "represent the last resort of the underdog to hold out against the oppressive forces of the Navy Blue powermongers."

The original train stations on the board represented the different railway companies. After nationalisation they became British Rail and now we have come full circle. However, the different companies are now far too numerous to mention, so the stations will gain a place in view of their importance. King's Cross is still there, but will soon lose its lion's share of the Channel Tunnel responsibility to Stratford, in the East. Victoria deserves a place, being the gateway to the rest of the world via Gatwick Airport. Marylebone, in reality only hanging on by the skin of its teeth, can go, as can Fenchurch Street. That leaves a space for Paddington to serve the west of England.

And as for the Free Parking square, parking at any price would be welcome on the new board. In central London you can expect to pay up to pounds 100,000 for a garage. Rents are more affordable, if you can secure one, at around pounds 5,000 per year for a garage, pounds 1,500 for an underground space. So along with the green houses and red hotels, little black garages will really clobber your opponents.

And forget about going straight to jail. The easiest way to immobilise a player is to wheelclamp him.

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