More For Your Money: Grosvenor Park, SE5

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The Independent Online

An inner-city district bordered by a rail line and the busy Camberwell Road, the Grosvenor Park conservation area has a chronic noise problem. But the usual suspects are innocent.

On the southern edge of Camberwell and brushing against Kennington and Walworth, the conservation area consists of a concentration of period homes on Grosvenor Park, Grosvenor Terrace and Urlwin Street. The area is closer to the South Bank and the West End than the similarly Georgian and much better-known Camberwell Grove.

"With few exceptions, everyone gets along well with one another, unless they live in the same house," says Mike Tyrer, who moved into the area 16 years ago and bought his right-to-buy flat a year ago. "Everyone knows everyone else, people maintain their gardens, there are beautiful houses and trees, and there is a strong sense of community." But...?

"It is a privilege to live here, except for noise from neighbours. I can hear my neighbour's phone, radio, television. I can even hear them whispering after they have had sex. I may as well be lying in bed with them," Tyrer says.

He is not alone in being plagued by noisy neighbours. It comes with the territory, literally. About 40 years ago, the council oversaw a mass conversion of houses into flats. The noise insulation was particularly shabby - confirmed, Tyrer says, by scientific tests which demonstrated that neighbours made a horrendous racket when simply behaving normally.

Tyrer explains that some houses were converted into maisonettes, and others were lateral conversions, in which two houses were combined and flats are on one level. With lateral conversions, living rooms are above one another, as are kitchens and bedrooms. If a neighbour's noise is intrusive, it is harder to escape into another room.

If Tyrer had his way, "all of the buildings would be reconverted back to single homes. This is a wonderful place despite the noise. You find a way to live here, even with the noise. Take away the sound problem and this is the best area to live in London, without doubt."

Stan Miller, a 60-year veteran of the area, took the council to court twice over earlier and severe noise problems, caused primarily by neighbouring children. "I've had no noise problems for years now," he says. "Everyone in my building is respectful of one another, and they don't have children."

How big is the conservation area?

The conservation area consists, Tyrer estimates, of some 400-plus households in about 175 buildings, most of which are conversions. "About three-quarters still belong to the local authority or a housing association, and between 20 and 25 are whole houses."

What about noise?

Tyrer intends to get sound insulation in his flat eventually, at a cost of about £20,000. "To my knowledge, very few of the flats have been soundproofed." Noise is no problem in a grade II-listed detached Georgian house on Urlwin Street with three storeys, five double bedrooms, large reception and kitchen, and south-facing garden, with off-street parking, £595,000 at Andrews & Robertson.

What do flats cost?

A two-double-bedroom, split-level conversion flat on the upper storeys in a spacious period house has views over Kennington Park; the price is £229,000, with annual service charges of £300, at Andrews & Robertson

Any alternatives to period properties?

The recently completed Marble House is a new gated courtyard development of two- and three-bed live/work units on Grosvenor Terrace, with communal Sky television service and fire alarm systems. Each unit has one parking space and a balcony or terrace. Six units remain, from £350,000 to £880,000, at Leonard Leese.

Isn't live/work really an ordinary flat?

Not here: the work and residential segments have their own entrances, so business visitors don't see your unmade bed, and dinner guests are shielded from your cluttered desk. A two-bed unit at £525,000 has 1,904 sq ft (1,110 residential) with dual-aspect floor-to-ceiling windows, and high ceilings. Solid, bright flats in a converted school on nearby Albany Road are available from £209,950 at Osbourne Stewart.

What about green relief?

Burgess Park has a large pond, new tennis courts and the listed Chumleigh Gardens Almshouses, which are no longer residential. Kennington Park, which is opposite the cricket ground, has tennis courts and a swimming pool.

What about transport

The nearest tube is Kennington, on the Northern Line. The rail tracks in the conservation area are midway between Elephant and Castle and Loughborough Junction national rail stations. Buses are frequent along Camberwell Road.

What about shopping

Walworth Road has an M&S, Somerfield, Iceland and other shops. Superstores and the popular East Street market are nearby.

How good are the local schools?

Against the grain in Southwark, St Joseph's primary, on Pitman Street, scored above the national average in English (10 points), maths (five) and science (five). The local secondary comprehensive scored well below the national average.

Alan Fraser, 0871 271 3409; Andrews & Robertson, 020 7703 2662; Leonard Leese, 020 7397 5360; Osbourne Stewart, 020 8299 1444.

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