'Friends thought I was mad'

Some retirees are in no hurry to settle down in a bucolic locale. For them, a move to the heart of London is far more appealing. Chris Partridge scouts around for some purpose-built flats
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The Independent Online

When Dr Lind Wright began to find her five-bedroom house too big for her, she looked around for a flat in a place offering the best environment for an active retirement. She chose the City of London.

When Dr Lind Wright began to find her five-bedroom house too big for her, she looked around for a flat in a place offering the best environment for an active retirement. She chose the City of London.

What is remarkable is that the former GP had been living on just the kind of beautiful country coastline many folk aspire to spend their relaxing years - the Gower peninsula in south Wales. "I wanted to live in a flat in an area with good public transport and easy shopping," she says. "I enjoy going to concerts and I had almost given up because of the difficulty of driving to Swansea from Gower."

Staying with friends in London, she realised that the capital offered all these things and more. "All my friends and family live round London and can get to me much more quickly than in south Wales," she says.

Wright chose the Barbican for its central location, safe environment and the arts centre. "My sister had lived in the Barbican so I knew what it was like. The flats are leasehold so I don't have to worry about the plumbing going wrong or anything."

So why is the City of London unknown as a retirement destination? "Lots of my friends thought I was mad," Wright admits. "Although there are a lot of things I will miss about Gower, gardening had become a chore rather than a pleasure and with two hip replacements I could not go on the long walks I used to with the dog."

Wright is buying a flat in the Barbican through agents Frank Harris, who are also handling sales what is believed to be the first development in the City specifically for retired people, Tudor Rose Court in Fann Street, behind the Barbican.

The contemporary style building has all the touches the elderly need, including a 24-hour warden call-out system, automatic passenger lifts and an entry phone system. The block has communal facilities that cater for people who can't get out as much as they used to, including a lounge, dining room, laundry room with washing machines and tumble driers, and a rather large and sunlit garden, at least it is as large and sunlit as you get in the City.

There is also a suite of guest bedrooms that can be rented by the night for putting up the family while leaving you in peace. "We have people selling their bungalows in Eastbourne and Bournemouth to move to the City," says Tina Evans, manager of the agent's City office. "It is very different from the usual City types, who come in and make an instant decision. The OAPs really like to chat."

Evans says prices are low for the City, ranging from £162,000 for one bedroom to £218,000 for two, but service charges of between £310 and £355 a month reflect the care provided. For details of Tudor Rose Court, ring Frank Harris & Co on 020-7600 7000.

The area round the development also has most of the facilities people assume are rare in the office environment of the City, such as doctors, dentists and chemists, because of its location between the Barbican and the Golden Lane Estate.

Originally built for the workers by Islington council, the Golden Lane Estate is now part of the City and very highly regarded - it is Grade II-listed in its entirety. The 1950s architecture may not appeal to everyone but it is certainly stylish and has all the facilities you need. Golden Lane flats are also considerably cheaper than the neighbouring Barbican, starting from about £170,000 for a studio flat, rising to about £325,000 for a three-bed flat in Great Arthur House, the only tower block on the estate. Prices are kept down by the dated layout of the flats, which generally have small rooms and shared bathrooms.

The City has a long retirement tradition, with almshouses such as the famous Charterhouse, home to 42 pensioners (known as Brothers) of the Sutton's Hospital charity since the 17th century. Additional building work means some of the attractive 19th century houses at the rear of the Charterhouse could be made available for the public to rent, and they are possibly the most tranquil flats in London. Small wonder they rarely become available, says Charlotte Moore of Hurford Salvi Carr. "People say they are so peaceful you can hear the birds and only a slight rumble of traffic."