More For Your Money: Staines, TW18

Take me to the river
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The Independent Online

'Is it 'cos I is a welfy banker that there is these new luxury riverside flats in the town centre?" Actually, a flat overlooking the Thames might suit a wealthy IT consultant, airline pilot or, for that matter, well-heeled television comedian. But don't expect to see Sacha Baron-Cohen wandering down the high street, even though his alter ego Ali G was a card-carrying member of the West Staines Massive.

'Is it 'cos I is a welfy banker that there is these new luxury riverside flats in the town centre?" Actually, a flat overlooking the Thames might suit a wealthy IT consultant, airline pilot or, for that matter, well-heeled television comedian. But don't expect to see Sacha Baron-Cohen wandering down the high street, even though his alter ego Ali G was a card-carrying member of the West Staines Massive.

Convenient as well as attractive, Staines has few pretensions and moderate property prices. Even the new luxury flats sell for considerably less than their counterparts in more popular London locations. Staines is a compact, self-contained suburban community that, sandwiched between Heathrow, the M25 and several large reservoirs, couldn't expand even if it wanted to. The railroad steamed into the area in 1848, and houses started being built in significant numbers. But the town's period properties today intermingle with flats and houses built in various periods, styles and sizes throughout the twentieth century.

Modern townhouses and maisonettes have sprung up on the riverside near the town centre, and the latest arrival is a large development occupying a central location on the refurbished riverside promenade. Opened a few years ago, Thames Edge Court is a luxury block of about 80 units with bars and restaurants on the ground floor. For one resident, the building is tantalisingly close to perfection. "Everything is on the doorstep," says Janine Priest, 28, who lives in a one-bedroom flat with her partner, both of whom work for Weybridge-based Benchmark.

"Ha Ha Bar, one of the three bars in town that I like, is beneath the flats, and the gym I go to is across the road." A Manchester native who frequently returns north to visit family and friends, she also appreciates the good road communications in Staines and its proximity to Heathrow.

But for Janine, the flat's one shortcoming outweighs all the positives. "Living by the river is very nice, but with summer coming, I'd like a garden. We've been looking at houses, and it would be nice to live on the riverside like we do now. We looked in the Weybridge area but you pay more of a premium to live there, so we are focusing on Staines. Property is cheaper here, and it is considered a good investment, especially with the new terminal opening at Heathrow." Their flat is on the market for £199,950.

What properties are available?

A respectable number of Victorian and Edwardian houses are available, including a few built in the early 1800s. Conversions and purpose-built studios and one-bedroom flats within walking distance of the train station or town centre start at about £120,000. Modern riverside flats and houses are near the town centre, and older riverside houses and apartment blocks line the Thames on both the Staines and Egham sides. Two-up two-down Victorian cottages near the station start at about £200,000.

What do the trendy riverside flats cost?

In Thames Edge Court, Townends is selling Janine Priest's flat and another one-bedder, each for £199,950, and a two-bedroom flat with riverside views for £429,950. In addition to studios and one- and two-bedders, the block has three-bed flats selling for about £500,000, according to Townends' Mark Triebner. Other riverside developments in the town centre include Colne Bridge Close (pictured above), with townhouses and maisonettes and Island Close, with townhouses and terraces. Flats with riverside views are also available in The Maltings, a former brewery on the far side of the bridge linking Staines with Egham.

What about houses?

According to Keith Howard of agents Isis, "apartment conversions with river views start at about £275,000 for two bedrooms and two receptions. More numerous are family houses, ranging from four-bedroom detached chalet styles with good gardens and private moorings at £600,000, to larger homes with five or more bedrooms nudging £1m. A four-bedroom riverside house in Staines costs about £200,000 less than its equivalent on the river stretches in Weybridge and Walton. In Staines, Isis is selling a four-bed riverside house with moorings, £600,000.

What about escape routes?

You can make your getaway by car, train, plane or boat. By train, South West Trains service to Waterloo takes about 30 minutes. Just outside Staines the A30 provides access to central London and the M25 (for access to the M3, M4 and M40). Heathrow is six miles away.

How's the shopping?

The town's two shopping centres are conjoined by a pedestrianised high street and offer major department stores and supermarkets, standard high-street chains, independent shops, a multi-screen cinema and numerous bars and cafes. The high street hosts a street market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the ornate Victorian town hall is becoming a restaurant.

How do you have fun here?

Athletic grounds and tennis courts are abundant. Spelthorne Borough's Leisure Centre has swimming pools and a health and fitness centre. Queen Mary Reservoir has a sailing club, and the wildlife-rich King George VI Reservoir and Staines Reservoir just north of the town centre have walking and bicycling paths.

And one for the pub quiz

What household product is the town associated with?

Staines gave the world linoleum.

Halifax, 01784 455 444 Isis, 01784 441 818 Regents, 01784 464 444 Townends, 01784 455 299

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