Hot Spot: Brentford, Middlesex

For our 100th Hot Spot we return to Brentford, our very first port of call. With its rivers and canal, God's gift to utility companies is beginning to resemble upmarket Chiswick, and its redundant brownfield and waterside sites are a magnet for developers
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The Independent Online

West Chiswick? Very west Clerkenwell? The new improved Brentford increasingly resembles its upmarket neighbour, as well as the trendy area in central London.

West Chiswick? Very west Clerkenwell? The new improved Brentford increasingly resembles its upmarket neighbour, as well as the trendy area in central London.

This hot spot marks a return to our roots, to the once shabby west London district we highlighted 99 columns ago. In August 1998, Regatta Point, the first of several planned or proposed luxury residential developments, was nearing completion, and Barratt's Kew Bridge House was adorned in scaffolding as part of its conversion from office to residential block.

With its two rivers and one canal, Brentford - God's gift to utility companies - has redundant brownfield sites aplenty and extensive water-side areas, ideal land for residential redevelopment.

Kew Bridge House, now nearing completion, has recently sold out, and flats in Regatta Point are starting to change hands.

One original Regatta Point resident, who doesn't want to be identified, is selling her flat but hopes to remain in the area. She paid £215,000 for it in December 1998. Early this year estate agents Featherstone Leigh valued it at £300,000 and it is now worth £335,000. "I know of no other resales in the building, other than one neighbour who bought a studio for £125,000 and sold for £210,000," the owner says. She also admits that initially she told friends she lived at Kew Bridge, but "eventually that started to sound pretentious and now I say Brentford".

The geography, however, is not straightforward. Regatta Point and Kew Bridge House are adjacent to Chiswick and just across the river from Kew. These luxury blocks of flats will soon be joined by a string of major residential developments along Brentford High Road by various developers, including Barratt, Fairview and Laing.

These luxury developments and loft conversions tend to produce their own mini-communities, whether in Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, central London or Docklands. Shared interests and socio-economic affinities, rather than formal boundaries, determine their identities. "I'm actively sad to have to sell," says the Regatta Point vendor. "It is a friendly building with many parties going on, and we know a lot of people in the block."

These new developments along with soaring prices in Richmond, Kew Gardens and Ealing, haveboosted Brentford values, including Brentford Dock, which started life as a council estate. "Now that surrounding brownfield sites are being developed, Brentford Dock is suddenly looking a much more attractive prospect," says Robert Leigh of Featherstone Leigh. "Two and three-bedroom flats with balconies and views of the private marina are selling for around £230,000 to £250,000, which is approximately 25 per cent more than last year. It is convenient for the BBC in White City and is attracting people in the media and acting professions."

Buyers interested in this part of town will soon be spoiled for choice. Along Kew riverside, just across the bridge, St James has started putting up a complex of 394 units, and St George hopes to build 207 units on an adjacent site. St James has also submitted an application to develop a site in Brentford next to the Steam Museum.

The Low-Down

Transport

Road connections are first-rate for the M4, M3, North Circular and M40. The local rail station is Kew Bridge and local buses link with the District and North London Line stations at Kew Gardens and Gunnersbury, and the Piccadilly Line for Heathrow at Acton Town. Brentford is less than 10 miles from Heathrow.

Prices

One-bedroom flats in Brentford Estates that sold for £80,000 just two years ago, now sell for £130,000. The 1,800sq ft penthouse in Kew Bridge House changed hands for £875,000.

Flats plus

Barratt's Capital West at the former gasworks site will contain a hotel and refurbished music museum in addition to the 262 units in 16-storey towers. Along the river, Laing is building 14 one and two-bedroom apartments.

Ferry Quays

Ferry Quays, by Rialto and Fairview New Homes, is an 11-acre, £100m riverside project overlooking Kew Gardens. The area's largest scheme, it features 352 apartments, including 45 affordable units. The five, five-storey buildings will contain one and two-bed flats and penthouses from 500 to 1,400sq ft. The complex will include a 100-room hotel, restaurants and shops. First occupations are expected in spring 2001 with completion in 2004.

Previous occupiers on this brownfield site include British Gas, Peerless Pumps, a soap factory, boatbuilder and distillery.

Building bridges

The Ferry Quays developers also own an island and are "looking to attract boat-building companies to establish premises. We are also building a pedestrian bridge to provide access to the island".

It's a café, no, it's a restaurant, no, it's ...

Brentford High Road has its first trendy eatery - Fat Boys, a greasy spoon by day, Thai restaurant by night. Other nearby restaurants and pubs are located on and near Strand on the Green in Chiswick.

The golden mile

Already well under construction is the massive new headquarters complex of Glaxo SmithKline which opens next year. The new buildings will grace this already buoyant commercial stretch of the A4 in Brentford.

The green machine

Syon House is in Brentford and Kew Gardens is across the Thames. Brentford has music and steam museums and sports clubs. Waterman's Art Centre is on Brentford High Street, and Fountain Leisure Centre is on Chiswick High Street, opposite Kew Bridge House.

Contacts

Brentford Estates, 020-8400 2001; Fairview, 0800 7314477; Featherstone Leigh, 020-8940 1575; Barratt 020-8607 1900; Laing, 0118 936 4000. Waterview estate agents specialise in waterside properties and have a branch in Barnes serving the Brentford area, 020-8748 8668.

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