Scottish Borders joins executive set with £1m luxury homes

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By the bonny banks of the Tweed in the verdant valleys of the Scottish Borders is a surprising newcomer to the landscape: the £1m home.

By the bonny banks of the Tweed in the verdant valleys of the Scottish Borders is a surprising newcomer to the landscape: the £1m home.

Population decline and the failure of traditional industries such as textiles, farming and forestry have left the Borders among the most downcast of Scotland's regional economies.

Yet the builders of Cardrona, the first purpose-built village in the Borders for 200 years, are confident there will be a market for its modern houses, so different from the grey stone of neighbouring settlements.

One of the reasons for their optimism is the fact that Edinburgh, the expanding financial powerhouse of south-central Scotland, is just 40 minutes by car. Edinburgh's transformation in the past 20 years from a sleepy backwater into a city with almost full employment, rising population and thriving financial, insurance and bio-technical industries has led to the development of a London-style commuter belt.

As house prices rise on a par with London, townhouses in walking distance of Edinburgh's centre have gone through the £1m mark and others on the periphery are fetching almost double the asking prices. That has created a demand for ready-made new homes within commuting distance of the city.

Cardrona, three miles from the historic border town of Peebles, has been designed to meet such demand. Just 23 miles along uncongested roads from Edinburgh, the village is surrounded by hills, and nestles by a curve of the Tweed.

But while a three-bedroom family home in Peebles might fetch about £120,000, most of Cardrona's 240 properties are more expensive. Five companies have been building a mixture of house types from £90,000 starter homes to top-of-the-range properties.

As well as bungalows with English names such as Essex and Westminster, which sell for £250,000 and up, the Pinewoods development includes seven of the most luxurious houses in Scotland. The most opulent is the four- bedroom Senator, from £1m, which has a self-contained granny or staff flat above the triple garage. "Increasingly, we are being asked by buyers to include staff accommodation in the design," a spokeswoman for the developers, Manor Kingdom, said. "Most people with the money to buy a house like this have an au pair at least."

The Senator sits on landscaped plot of about half an acre, which includes replica garden rocks concealing speakers for the house's sound system, ending the need to haul the hi-fi outside during garden parties. There is enough room within its 4,500sq ft to fit three average houses.

The house has a family room/home cinema, drawing room, dining room, an upper entrance hall as well as a lower main hall, a vast kitchen and breakfast room, a utility and two cloakrooms. Two galleries flank the curved stairs, which dominate the entrance hall. With its sophisticated audio visual equipment, home cinema and combined heating, light and sound computer system, which can be controlled by mobile phone, Manor Kingdom claims to have created "Scotland's most hi-tech new home".

The homes back on to Cardrona's new 18-hole, £60-a-round golf course, the work of the international designer Dave Thomas for Macdonald Hotels, which has approval to build a £6m 155-bedroom hotel and leisure centre at the village.

Developers hope Cardrona, and the Senator, will attract English buyers who regard the short commute to Edinburgh a doddle compared with the travelling times in London. Manor Kingdom's spokeswoman said 34 per cent of its 50 properties had been bought by people who moved to Scotland from England and Wales, 31 per cent by people who lived in Edinburgh, and 17 per cent by local people and families from elsewhere in Scotland. So successful has the builder been in finding buyers for the £20m development that it is seeking planning permission for a second millionaire's row at the other end of the village.

The style and layout of the village is unquestionably suburban. Almost every house is detached and has a garden at front and back. But the man behind the project, Tom Renwick, is adamant that Cardrona will be a thriving village community and not another housing estate.

The 63-year-old livestock farmer realised 12 years ago that, as traditional industries declined, something new was needed to regenerate the area. On his own initiative, he invested £5m to buy Cardrona Mains, a farm three miles from Peebles next to the river, After years of hard-fought battles against existing residents opposed to the "Surreyfication" of the Borders he gained approval to establish a £40m village with 220 houses, an 18-hole golf course and a 150-bedroom hotel on 340 acres.

"I didn't want just another housing estate," Mr Renwick said. "I wanted a living, thriving village community and to do that you have to have a mixture of houses, people, wealth and personalities. I have built a village hall and donated it to the community and here will be shops, a school and work places. This is not just another commuter dormitory, it is also home to local Borderers.

"There is a wide range of housing at every price and we're building homes to be let at an affordable rent."

One local critic said: "This doesn't cater for local people. Only a millionaire can afford one of these homes and hardly anyone in this area will earn that kind of money in a lifetime. The people who will occupy them don't make a village."

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