For prostitutes as well as property developers, Plymouth held out great promise when the cold war sizzled. But when the peace dividend and the recession steamed into town a decade ago, Devon's largest navy-reliant city steered close to the rocks.
"Well into the 1990s the industrial side of Plymouth was grim," admits Roger Punch of Stags Punch & Roche, "but we are coming out of the slide. Companies like OnDigital and Orange have opened call centres, unemployment has plummeted, and new industries are coming in."
Thanks to a £20m regeneration scheme and other initiatives, including waterfront regeneration projects, Plymouth has new and improved residential, shopping and leisure facilities.
The Stonehouse section of town has large period houses originally built for naval officers and, with its harbours, coast and Tamar and Plym Rivers, Plymouth has never lacked for homes with water views.
According to the city council: "We've already had a number of residential waterfront developments, notably on the Mount Batten peninsular, around Sutton Harbour and Millbay Marina. Planning applications are being considered for further development, and a group of historical buildings at Royal William Yard will form a new retail and residential complex."
Royal William Yard is a former victualling and supply yard on a 19-acre site encompassing ten Grade I listed buildings, several of which are immense Victorian warehouses. The erstwhile brewhouse, mill, bakery, slaughterhouse and other facilities will eventually yield luxury homes along with shops and leisure facilities. In scale and architectural distinction, Royal William should rival similar developments in Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff.
"The market has been buoyant for the last eighteen months, with price increases on a month by month basis," says John Waldron, Area Partner of Connell estate agents. "The better quality residential areas such as Peverell, Mannamead, Hartley, Stoke and Crownhill are especially hot."
Like most parts of the UK, Plymouth is experiencing summer doldrums. "We are now beginning to see some slowing down of the market," says Waldron. "We have more properties coming in and taking longer to sell. Recent reports from other Connell agencies in southern England had forewarned Waldron to expect this increase in supply relative to demand. "We generally find that property trends ripple out from the southeast and reach here in muted form a few months later.
"The highs are not quite so high and thankfully the lows are not quite so low."
Michael Clark of Jackson-Stops & Staff has observed that "the sailing facilities at Plymouth and around the Tamar estuary have become increasingly popular in recent years. The marina and the Royal Western Yacht Club have undoubtedly proved to be a significant attraction to people moving into the area."
Plymouth is 240 miles from London and 75 from Penzance. The city is on the rail line between London and Penzance via Ivybridge, Totnes, Newton Abbot and Exeter. At Plymouth City Airport four miles from the city centre, Brymon Airways has regular service to Gatwick, Bristol, Newquay, Jersey and Paris. Ferries serve France and Spain. The A38 runs through Plymouth and links it with Exeter and Liskeard.
Plymouth is well below the national average in all property categories. Detached houses sell for £116,000 - £40,000 less than the national average, and flats sell for less than half the national £84,000. Connell has numerous two and three-bed houses for £40,000 to £60,000, but none are in Mr Waldron's "hot" areas. Connell is also selling a four-bed house four miles from Plymouth in Plympton for £225,000.
Westbury has also released two and four-bed town houses in Freedom Fields, a development that will total 106 houses and 40 apartments. Prices range from 74,000 to 103,500 (01752 256923). Persimmon's hillside development in Tamerton Foliot five miles from Plymouth has three, four and five-bed homes, some with double garages. (01752 783683)
A flotilla of developers is converting the Royal Naval College at Manadon just outside Plymouth into 380 homes and flats. Westbury is selling four two-bed and one four-bed home starting at £79,995 (01752 770342). Prowting Homes is selling one to five-bed houses priced between £74,950 to £199,950. (0800 917 9824.)
One syllable or less
Connell has an office dedicated to first-time buyers in Mutley Plain, Plymouth which handles only properties selling for less than £60,000. All of the negotiators are young and, says John Waldron, "trained to explain the house buying process in fairly basic terms."
Good news and less good news
Under the heading, 'What to do in a nuclear emergency,' Plymouth's official website reassures readers that "there is absolutely no risk of an 'atomic bomb' type explosion." The site then notes reassuringly that: "Even if an accident did happen it probably would not affect people living more than 0.5km from the submarine in the Naval Base."
Connell, 01752 674467, 01752 664357; Jackson-Stops & Staff, Exeter, 01392 214222; Stags Punch & Roche, 01752 223933Reuse content