Barely five years into a radical makeover that has yet to hit high gear, Brentford has already been dramatically transformed. In this south-west London suburb, west of Chiswick, several waterside blocks of luxury flats and houses have replaced derelict wharves and gasworks. A major town-centre renovation has been long promised and, if current applications are approved, much larger developments will be built.
Located where the Thames meets the river Brent and the Grand Union Canal, Brentford was a busy communications hub that outlived its usefulness. The town's best bits are well hidden. One is the Butts, an enclave of handsome and very expensive houses, some dating to the late 17th century, tucked behind a main road. Brentford Dock, a waterside estate of low-rise blocks, also enjoys drive-by obscurity.
Brentford's more public face consists of a nondescript mix of period properties, high-rise council estates and office buildings of various vintages, usefulness and architectural distinction. Much of the town was begging for redevelopment.
Brentford's facelift began gingerly, just before the new millennium, with the conversion of two office blocks, one on either side of Kew Bridge. This was mere prelude. Soon, national developers such as Barratt, Crest Nicholson, Fairview, and Rialto altered the landscape more boldly. Hundreds of flats and houses have been built on both sides of the town centre, developers want to build hundreds more. A builder has applied for a project containing nearly 1,000 units, and some plans call for buildings rising 10 or more storeys.
Denis Browne, a retired architect and former planning officer for Hammersmith and Islington councils, views this building flurry with mixed feelings. He welcomes the liveliness and the varied interests of the affluent newcomers occupying the new flats, but worries about long-term trends.
"Some of the proposed new buildings are so large as to be out of scale with the area - they'll make Brentford an overdeveloped corridor," he says. "There's been a stable community here for 100 years, and now the population will double. The incomers will bring enormous pressures, on parking, road congestion, the health service. And most of the new buildings contain small flats. When these people have families, they will move on. As a professional involved in town planning, I'd like to see more balance."
What are the prices like?
Homes in the Butts can sell for more than £1m, but generally in Brentford, two-bed cottages go for less than £250,000, three-bed houses for less than £300,000. New luxury flats sell at a premium but are about 20 per cent cheaper than equivalent units in Kew.
What kind of properties are available?
Ex-council flats for investors start at about £120,000, and privately owned flats for owner-occupiers at about £150,000, says Justin Stevenson of Townends. For something nautical, Quilliam is selling a two-bunk former Admiralty service launch for £110,000, and a three-reception five-bed Dutch barge for £395,000.
Tell me about the flats
A ground-floor one-bed flat in a bay-fronted Victorian conversion on Mafeking Avenue, £189,950. A similar price - £185,000 with share of freehold - buys a one-bedder in Brentford Dock with south-facing views over the marina. Both at Quilliam. A second-floor split-level flat in art-deco Braemar Court is £189,950 at Townends.
What about houses?
A recently renovated three-bedroom house with two receptions and 80ft garden is £309,950; and a three-bed terrace with 27ft lounge and 90ft garden near the Butts is £349,950, both at Russell Collins. A larger two-reception three-bed Victorian house on Whitestile Road is £359,950 at Quilliam.
What about new riverside developments?
At Crest Nicholson's The Island are one-bed flats from £255,000, two-bed from £329,950, penthouses from £529,950. Three- and four-bed houses are from £585,000 (0870 758 1010).
How good is transport?
Brentford isn't on the Tube, but two rail stations - Brentford and Kew Bridge - provide services to Waterloo, and buses provide access to the District, Northern and Piccadilly lines at Gunnersbury, Kew Gardens, Boston Manor and Hounslow. Brentford is convenient for Heathrow, the A4, M4 and North Circular.
What about shopping and dining?
Hounslow and Chiswick have major shopping centres. Popular restaurants are located in Chiswick and just across the river in Kew.
What about general amenities?
Brentford has several small but interesting museums: the Musical Museum is in the former St George's Church, and, just down the road, the Kew Bridge Steam Museum is in a former 19th-century pumping-station. Also nearby is the butterfly house at Syon House.
And mind and body?
There's Waterman's Art Centre, a former riverside brewery, for plays, pantos, films, etc. Fountains Leisure Centre gym and pool is near Kew Bridge. And large green spaces include Gunnersbury Park, Osterley Park and Kew Gardens.
And one for the pub quiz
What famous painter lived in what part of Brentford?
The 10-year-old Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) lived, briefly, with his uncle in the Butts.
Apricot Estates 020-8840 8080; Quilliam 020-8847 4737; Russell Collins 020-8567 7080; Townends 020-8568 2929Reuse content