California dreaming

It's just down the road from Bournemouth, but Poole has a climate and a cachet to persuade you that you are on America's West Coast, says Sam Taylor
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The Independent Online

If you were a cult TV star called Virgil with a fleet of supersonic spaceships and a penchant for posh blondes, what would you want for your 40th birthday? The answer might be a house in Poole. True, it wouldn't be everyone's immediate guess, but then Poole on the Dorset coast is something of a social chameleon. Hidden behind its Terry and June façade are a wealth, quite literally, of stunning, mainly modernist-revival, architectural gems rapidly being snapped up by the rich and sometimes famous in search of an English Riviera bolt hole.

If you were a cult TV star called Virgil with a fleet of supersonic spaceships and a penchant for posh blondes, what would you want for your 40th birthday? The answer might be a house in Poole. True, it wouldn't be everyone's immediate guess, but then Poole on the Dorset coast is something of a social chameleon. Hidden behind its Terry and June façade are a wealth, quite literally, of stunning, mainly modernist-revival, architectural gems rapidly being snapped up by the rich and sometimes famous in search of an English Riviera bolt hole.

For Virgil, the ideal home is still in the process of being constructed by local award-winning developer Seven. Named Thunderbird, in homage to the Sixties children's television classic, the 8,000 sq ft groundbreaking design carries an equally jaw-dropping £5.2 million pricetag.

For someone whose previous home was easily replicated by Blue Peter fans using little more than Fairy Liquid bottles and pocket money, the cost for the star of International Rescue might seem steep. But there are luxury extras not wholly evident on Tracy Island. There is the 10-seater cinema; a pool, naturally; off-street parking for at least six Aston Martins; five bedrooms, each with en-suite bathrooms; plasma TVs in every room of the house; and green-tinted windows adorned with curtains and blinds that respond to the flick of a switch. Given that this kind of money might buy a private corner of the Caribbean, it seems inconceivable that people are prepared to pay this for a tiny British seaside plot. But pay they do.

This sandy outpost, the second-largest natural harbour in the world, is the fourth most expensive place in the world to buy property, after Hong Kong, Manhattan and Mayfair. Yet despite the headline-grabbing prices, most purchasers are keen to keep a low profile. Poole has none of the overt jet-set trappings of other millionaire playgrounds. Most of its wealthy investors are simply looking for a weekend retreat so they can sail their yachts or exercise their children. And, unlike Padstow or Newquay, Poole has no celebrity restaurateur, nor any real nightlife attractions. There are a couple of bistro-type places but nothing that would attract the glare of the paparazzi.

For Gill Emeny, of Tailor Made Properties, this is part of the area's charm. "Celebrities can come here to be anonymous," she says. Over the years she has sold some of Poole's more exclusive homes, and currently has on the market at least three properties that she doesn't expect to sell for less than several million. The main attraction, she concedes, is miles of pristine golden sands centred on the Sandbanks peninsula with its sub-tropical micro-climate. "People look out across the beaches and it's like being in California."

Tailor Made is selling Volare, a £3 million, Eileen Gray-inspired, white-rendered mini-mansion, with nautical curves and a bathroom suite designed by Porsche. Like most of the other high-value properties on her books, it also has its quota of plasma screens, including one alongside the indoor swimming pool. Like Thunderbird, it is not directly on the beach, but this does not seem to bother the cash-heavy buyers. "The richer clients like to be away from the hustle and bustle," Gill explains. For water-lovers there is The Beach House, a very chic three- bedroom home with its own jetty currently on the market for £2.25 million.

Whoever decides to buy them, they will probably have to make up their minds fast; new homes are often sold off-plan and all the agents have waiting lists. Andrew Scott at HarbourFront Properties says: "I have several applicants with 'open' written into the price section of their details." HarbourFront has two million-plus homes just on the market in the popular Sandbanks area. Sixty-Six is still being built in Panorama Road, and will boast four en-suite bedrooms, Philippe Starck bathrooms, Italian kitchen, underfloor heating and blue-tinted glass; it is £1.3 million. The second Sandbanks house on sale at £1.25 million is also ultra-modern: a three-storey family home with four bedrooms, a lift, cinema system in the lounge and two balconies to take advantage of the superb harbour views.

Apparently, despite Poole's proximity to the capital, a lot of big spenders come from Manchester and the well-heeled North. The area also has that essential millionaire element: footballer appeal. Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp has one of the largest houses on the waterfront and reputedly turned down a recent offer of £6 million to sell it. Close by, his Liverpool midfielder son, Jamie, and pop-star wife Louise, have an equally impressive place.

Fish-and-chip king Harry Ramsden is often seen strolling towards his own Thirties-inspired harbourside holiday home, and the family made rich by the ubiquitous Pod trainers also has a chunk of expensive real estate here. The electoral roll is starting to read like a version of the Rich List, and that's only the ones we're allowed to hear about. "It's FAB really," concludes Gill Emeny. Welcome to your new home, Virgil.

Seven Developments: 01202 716873, www.sevendevs.com

Tailor Made estate agents: 01202 706006, www.tailormadeestateagency.co.uk

HarbourFront Properties: 01202 708090, www.harbourfront-properties.net

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