Hot Spot: Richmond Park, Surrey

There's a great demand for property near the largest of London's eight royal parks - although it means paying a hefty premium
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The Independent Online

One princess, a handful of park managers and lodge employees, 400 fallow deer, 300 red deer, geese, foxes, rabbits, badgers, birds (including birds of prey), fish, rodents, grebe, gadwalls, beetles (200 species), rhododendron, foxgloves... These and many other varieties of flora and fauna are privileged to reside in Richmond Park. Stretching from Roehampton in the east to Kingston and Richmond in the west, its 2,500 acres make it the largest of London's eight royal parks. It may also be the most contentious.

One princess, a handful of park managers and lodge employees, 400 fallow deer, 300 red deer, geese, foxes, rabbits, badgers, birds (including birds of prey), fish, rodents, grebe, gadwalls, beetles (200 species), rhododendron, foxgloves... These and many other varieties of flora and fauna are privileged to reside in Richmond Park. Stretching from Roehampton in the east to Kingston and Richmond in the west, its 2,500 acres make it the largest of London's eight royal parks. It may also be the most contentious.

With its perimeter road and recently constructed pedestrian and bicycle path, the park attracts visits from large numbers of motorists, cyclists, dog walkers and ordinary pedestrians. Bicyclists periodically protest against cars, pedestrians deride miscreant bicyclists, and everyone, it appears, rails against the many rat-running commuters who clog the park's perimeter road. It's a jungle out there.

It's also an expensive jungle. The residential areas bordering the park constitute some of the most costly and prestigious precincts in the London area. But the park is both walled and vast, so the closer a house is located to a gate, the steeper the price will be.

"There is no premium for proximity to the park as such, but there is a premium for access," says Stanley Shaw of Mervyn Smith estate agents in Ham. "You can live right next to Richmond Park and yet it still take a two-mile journey just to get into the park.

"The roads near the park gates are popular. There is also a premium for a park view. For example, the houses on the side of Wingfield Road, which backs on to the park, sell for an extra £10,000 to £15,000 compared with houses on the other side of the road."

Allison Steele, who works for the estate agents Mann & Co, confirms the park premium: "Houses on Queens or Kings Road in Ham can sell for as much as £30,000 to £50,000 more than houses that are further away from the park," she says.

Property prices in this part of south-west London generally and regularly drift northward, often for reasons which are peripheral to, but nevertheless affect, park-side property values. For example, Kingston's consistently excellent schools are an irresistible lure for families, while Ham, with its Tudor- style houses and riverside location, remains popular with various constituencies.

"Many of our buyers don't specify Richmond Park in particular," says Shaw. "They just want to be near open land. There's also a ripple effect from Richmond, where prices have gone stratospheric."

The priciest properties are in Richmond Hill, Petersham and Coombe, and the cheapest are in housing association and ex-council flats and houses in Roehampton, much of which is inconvenient for park access. Kingston Hill contains a number of family homes which back onto the park but overlook the busy A308.

These roadside houses are cheaper, but "there are growing environmental concerns in the area, and recently we had a big demonstration against traffic," says Simon Lord of Lords estate agents. "A lot of parents are becoming increasingly worried, and those properties close to traffic will be harder to sell.

"But the roadside properties near the Robin Hood gate have some compensation by being near one of the park's entrances."

The Low-Down

Transport: Where it's good, it's very good. Richmond has solid Underground (District Line), rail and bus links. The main branch of the main line has frequent and fast trains to Clapham Junction and Waterloo, and the North London Line goes to Woolwich via north London. Where it's bad, it's pretty bad. Ham is a train-free zone linked to Kingston and Richmond by bus. Rail stations at North Sheen, Mortlake and Barnes serve the north side of the park, and Kingston and Norbiton serve the south- western end.

Property: Near Kingston, three-bed terraced town houses start at about £200,000. At Sheen Parkside, Michael Gregory is selling a two-bed town- centre flat for £145,000 and seven-bed detached parkside houses for £700,000- 750,000. Queens Road in Richmond has pedestrian park access and a wide range of flats and houses. Robert Holmes has large homes on one-acre- plus plots in Coombe, including the Grade II-listed Edmundsbury, a historically rich estate, at £1.95m.

According to Simon Lord, of Lords, availability is "the best for several years, with about one new property per week coming on to the market around Kingston." Allison Steele, of Mann & Co, counsels patience: "In my three years here, not a single property has come on to the market on Church Road in Ham, one of the best roads near the park."

Amenities: The park contains two public golf courses, at Roehampton and Petersham. Licensed fishing is permitted in Pen Ponds. There are also bridle-paths, playgrounds, playing fields, gardens, plantations, a cafe and ice-cream and bicycle-renting vans.

Endangered species: Traffic surveys revealed that more than 90 per cent of cars entering the area intend to leave it as soon as possible, and a car cull may be on the cards. But there will be resistance to a car- free regime by residents.

On a clear day: From King Henry VIII mound, the view of St Paul's Cathedral, 12 miles to the east, is uninterrupted and protected, as is the grade II-listed Pembroke Lodge. The 200 indigenous species of beetle were instrumental in the park's being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Contacts: Lords, 0181-546 6800; Mann & Co, 0181-546 9498; Mervyn Smith, 0181-549 5099; Michael Gregory, 0181-392 2217; Robert Holmes, 0181-947 9833.

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