Over the past decade, Peckham remade itself, demolishing its notorious council estate and erecting an award-winning library and striking new buildings.
These big projects tended to obscure smaller yet noteworthy renewal. Begun in 1997 and nearing its conclusion, the Bellenden Road Regeneration has revivified a community of Georgian and Victorian homes.
"When the project started, the housing situation was pretty dire and it was originally limited to housing regeneration," says Peter Keegan of Keegan Regeneration, chartered surveyors working with Southwark Council. "Over the years, it evolved to include shopfronts, infrastructure, and working with local artists. Instead of pepperpotting the area, whole roads were done up. Residents contributed 10 to 15 per cent of the cost, and we installed new roofs, fixed or built garden walls, worked on external paving and installed solar panels and rainwater harvesting. Property values increased by up to 40 per cent."
Last year, the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) gave this project a Best Practice Award, noting that it had faced about "10,000 unfit and potentially unfit private sector dwellings. It has since gone beyond this to address broader issues such as commercial activity, employment, crime reduction and environmental improvements with particular emphasis on public art."
Participating in the renewal were local artists such as the sculptor Antony Gormley, who designed bollards, and the artist Tom Phillips, who contributed pavements, curlicue lampposts and wall mosaics.
The Peckham Experiment restaurant is part of the change. Before, the building and its façade were falling into ruin. The brickwork has been restored, and the façade boasts a distinctive Phillips mosaic.
"When I moved in 36 years ago, this area was not exactly a slum but, like any inner-city suburb, it was run down," says dentist Peter Frost, who teaches dental prosthetics at Guy's and has a surgery in his home on Peckham Rye. "Just about everything was rented; as an owner of a house, I was unusual. Now, very little is rented. Everyone owns, and the renewal project gave the owners the incentive to spend money to improve their properties."
Frost, who is the chairman of the Peckham Society, says: "The area had been dowdy, now it's delightful. Property values have risen, and people come from other parts of south London to our cafés and restaurants. Local businesses are thriving."
What kind of value does this area offer?
Ben Williams of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward says: "Homes in Peckham generally cost about 60 per cent less than in nearby Clapham, although the Bellenden Road area is about 10 to 15 per cent higher than the Peckham average. The value for money is excellent considering it is in Zone 2. One-bedroom flats sell for as little as £130,000 and two-bedroom from £150,000."
What is available?
A one-double-bedroom conversion flat with a bay window and long (100ft) garden with paved patio is £189,950, and a two-double-bed split-level conversion with shared freehold on Ondine Road near East Dulwich station is £250,000; both at Winkworth.
What about houses?
A plain-fronted three-bed Victorian terrace needing modernising on Choumert Road, £284,950. A bay-fronted corner house with garage on Nigel Road is £304,000, and a three-bed Victorian terrace on Relf Road is £314,950. More rooms and period features cost more: a four-double-bed semi on Muschamp Road with bay windows, cellar and two receptions is £455,000; all at Kinleigh. A modern three-bed house in a gated community in Oliver Mews near the train station is £290,000 at Wooster & Stock.
Are there any school conversions?
Funny you should ask. On Godman Road, just east of the regeneration area, a former schoolhouse has been converted into eight bright and fashionable flats and five townhouses; £219,950 buys an 897sqft flat, and £309,950 lands a 1,548sqft house with mezzanine; the agent is Kinleigh.
How's the transport?
Peckham Rye station has national rail service to London Bridge, Victoria, Elephant & Castle and Blackfriars, and good bus services. A Peckham Rye stop is planned for the Cross River Tram; the East London Line extension might reach this area eventually.
What about shopping?
The parade in Bellenden Road has several cafés and bar/restaurants which have become local hangouts, and there are ethnic restaurants, antique and furniture shops and artists' studios and galleries. There is a large shopping centre near the bus station just off Peckham High Street.
What about schools?
Bellenden School primary and the Academy secondary scored well below the national average, but St John's and St Clement's primary on Adys Road scored well above. The broader area has several popular fee-paying schools.
And one for the pub quiz
The Peckham Experiment restaurant takes its name from what pre-war project?
A. Starting in 1935, nearly a thousand local families had their health monitored to assess the impact of an environment enriched by a swimming pool and other facilities.
Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, 020-7639 2029; Winkworth, 020-8299 2722; Wooster & Stock, 020-8299 5310Reuse content