Hot Spot: Preston, Lancs

Britain's sixth-largest university provides a constant stream of student tenants for investors in this new city, says Robert Liebman
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Preston became a city two years ago, and deservedly so. The population had long topped 100,000, the rapidly expanding University of Central Lancashire had become the nation's sixth-largest, and the docklands and city centre had been regenerated.

Preston became a city two years ago, and deservedly so. The population had long topped 100,000, the rapidly expanding University of Central Lancashire had become the nation's sixth-largest, and the docklands and city centre had been regenerated.

Riversway is now a large marina complex with restaurants, a cinema, shops and luxury flats on Europe's largest single-dock basin. Ribble Link is the first canal to be built in Britain in 100 years and cost £4.5m. It connects the dock to the Lancaster Canal and the national inland waterway network.

"Property prices have been going up sharply mainly because of the university and our city status," says Andy Williamson of Jones Cameron. "There are about 25,000 students already, but this is set to grow exponentially in the next few years. Landlords are getting yields of between 9 and 10 per cent gross." Fulwood and Penwortham are Preston's priciest areas, but Plungington and Ashton, where students tend to live, have the strongest price rises.

Wenckley Square near the city centre has also boomed. "Five years ago it was ignored but the council put a lot of regeneration money and effort into it, and now it is highly sought after," says Williamson. Investors are also active here, but the tenants are young professionals, not students.

John Campell, the university's residences manager, believes the steady influx of students - many of whom are foreign - has made Preston more cosmopolitan. He also notes that the new student halls being built by private-sector developers are increasing student choice. "Landlords are holding their own provided their flats are good quality."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

Preston has direct rail links with Manchester and Liverpool, with journey time under an hour. It is convenient for the M6 (Birmingham and the Lake District), M61 (Manchester), M55 (Blackpool) and M65 (east Lancashire).

Attractions

The Guild Hall hosts the UK Snooker Championships, and the Charter Theatre hosts concerts, plays and ballet. It is near the Lake District, Ribble Valley, Beacon Fell Country Park, Cuerden Valley and Forest of Bowland. The National Football Museum is located in Preston North End FC's new ground.

Schools

Highly regarded schools include Broughton High School near Penwortham and Archbishop Temple School in Fulwood. Further afield are Lancaster Girls Grammar and Lancaster Royal Grammar (boys).

Notable Prestonians

In the film Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave, creator and Prestonian Nick Park named Wendolene's dog after the city. Richard Arkwright (1732-92) invented the water frame cotton-spinning machine.

Notable buildings

The neoclassical Grade I-listed Harris Museum and Art Gallery has large collections of paintings, sculpture, glass and ceramics. St Walburge's, with its 302ft spire, was designed by Joseph Hansom of cab fame.

Prices

One-bed flats are available for as little as £35,000, but new and newly converted luxury flats in prized locations start at about £175,000. In Ashton, a period red-brick three-bed, two-reception end terrace is £97,950, and a four-bed three-reception semi with garage and conservatory is about £179,950 at Property Life. In Fulwood, a four-bed detached house with garage is £220,000 at Fox.

Buy to let

In the town centre, a house divided into eight bedrooms for student lets is £180,000.

A nation of shopkeepers

An off-licence in Leyland with two self-contained flats above is £174,950. A news agents' in Ribbleton with one-bed accommodation is £58,950. A commercial property with a two-bed flat next to a Chinese restaurant in Ashton is about £120,000. All at Jones Cameron.

On the outskirts

In Longridge seven miles from Preston, a two-bed stone terrace with large garden overlooking village church is £120,000. A two-bed, two-reception stone end terrace with 17ft kitchen is about £175,000. A three-bed home near the village centre with conservatory is £185,000, and a five-bed house is £215,000. All at Fox & Co. In Grimsargh, five miles from Preston, Redrow is building three-storey homes from £148,950 (01772 703698).

Penwortham

Bryant Homes' Elmswood development in Penwortham consists of 39 three- and four-bed detached houses from £178,000 (01772 324982).

Estate agents

Fox & Co (Longridge, 01772 780111); Jones Cameron 01772 888887; Property Life, 01772 725155

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