He's confident, anyway

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The Independent Online
Stanley Quek is a property developer. He is also Dr Quek, medical practitioner, an ex-schoolboy bridge champion in England, and, in Ireland, Honarary Consul-General Quek for Singapore, the land of his origins. It is comforting to know that someone as clever as Stanley Quek has faith in the British housing market.

Only a foreigner would embark on a £75m development project at a time when the nation is counting its pennies. Not that Dr Quek is particularly foreign - he was educated at the William Ellis school in north London and then at Trinity College, Dublin.

With the backing of one of Singapore's largest property companies, he is building 196 apartments on a redundant college site on the edge of Hampstead, north London. Having grown up just down the road, he has an insider's understanding of local sensitivities which the developers must take into account.

Although aimed primarily at the British market, the Westfield scheme fulfils what have become international benchmarks in housing: it has light apartments, good security, smart, portered communal areas, a leisure centre and underground car parking. The only difference between such a development here and one in Sydney is in the style of bricks and tiles on the outside.

Dr Quek's interest is as much in the smaller details of the project as in the grand scheme of things. He is particularly fussy about the lay- out of rooms, keeping public and private spaces separate, and treats space as if he were designing a caravan - every inch must be made to work.

Prices at Westfield will be in the £200,000-£550,000 range: what Dr Quek describes as business class, rather than first class. One of the penthouses has already been sold to a German and his English wife, who are moving to London from Singapore. Westfield is the second project undertaken by his consortium. The first was the redevelopment of an entire square at Stanhope Gardens in Kensington.

Added together, the two projects make Dr Quek one of the major players in the London housing market. Isn't he worried about finding buyers for so many properties?

"Affordability is good and I think that in a couple of years time, when Westfield is finished, all the pent-up demand will be there," he said. "London will be the financial centre of the EU. A lot of companies will have to set up offices here."

Meanwhile, Dr Quek's consortium will be hunting for some small, prime sites to add to its London portfolio.

While our nation of shoppers is stuck in "just looking" mode, we might as well browse through some of the loveliest properties now on the market. The first place to look is Hertfordshire, where several outstanding houses are for sale.

The most splendid is Hunsdon House near Ware, a Grade I manor house, once owned by Henry VIII and lived in by his son Edward VI. The housestands in 87 acres of parkland, with immaculate formal gardens, lawns and a chain of three lakes. Inside it has four reception rooms, four bedroom suites, numerous further bedrooms and a former servants' tower, converted into a four-bedroom, three-bathroom cottage. Savills is asking £1.8m.

To the west of the county, Knight Frank & Rutley is selling Callipers Hall in Chipperfield. This is a large family house with six reception rooms, six bedrooms and, in the very pretty grounds, a converted barn which looks more like a period cottage. With 16 acres, the asking price is £1m.

Just across the M1 at Aldenham is Glebe House, a wisteria-clad Queen Anne property with eight bedrooms and five reception rooms. Behind it lies the village church, in front are three acres of gardens. The asking price is £850,000 with Savills.

The Winchester office of John D Wood is selling The Weir House, a part- Elizabethan house on the edge of Arlesford, beloved village of the late John Arlott. "Arlesford is inhabited almost entirely by people who live there by choice, solely because they like the place," he wrote. "Out in the garden away from the traffic, the church bells most faithfully rung give it a timeless quality." The main rooms of the Weir House look out over the gardens which run down to the River Arle. There is a kitchen garden, a rose garden, a swimming pool and summer house, as well as 367 yards of double-bank fishing. The guide price is £1.4m

In the million-pound bracket it is often the setting which sells a house as much as its interior. Catsfield Manor near Battle in East Sussex is a Grade II period house surrounded by 29 acres of gardens, including a fountain terrace, a walled garden with peach and nectarine trees, lawns edged with oaks and beech, a tennis court, thatched pavilion and paddocks. Those who can afford to do more than browse should contact Knight Frank & Rutley.