Neighbourhood Watch: Corby, Northamptonshire

With a new rail link to London, Corby could be just the spot for commuters seeking family homes without spending a fortune. By Jonathan Christie
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The Independent Online

Corby in Northamptonshire has had more than its fair share of knocks over the years. For one thing, the town's railway station closed in 1966, forcing residents to rely on bus routes and car journeys to nearby Kettering in order to catch a train. But this former industrial town has received some good news: thanks to a new rail link to London, life looks to be on the up once more, and that should be reflected in the property values, whether there's a downturn this year or not.

After 10 years of campaigning by locals, the line to Corby from London is due to re-open in December this year. The new proposed hourly service will be operated by East Midlands Trains direct into London St Pancras. No confirmed timetable is available yet, but the average Kettering train reaches London in 65 minutes, so expect to add 10 minutes on to that time. This should mean that Corby loses the accolade of the largest town in Europe without a station. This service will unlock millions of pounds of investment, creating 1,200 retail and office jobs in a proposed business zone on nearby land.

Corby's fortunes dipped in 1981 when the steel furnaces were closed and 11,000 jobs were lost. But within 10 years, a new "enterprise zone" brought businesses to the town, lowering unemployment and raising hopes once again. Below-average house prices reflect the doldrums Corby has experienced, with property selling at – on average – £75,000 less than in the rest of the UK. Look specifically at detached properties and flats, and the disparity is even greater, with prices £110,000 below the national index. All of which means that making an investment in or around Corby, or moving to the area, could be a canny move.

There are plenty of new-build properties to choose from. If there's a first-time-buyer hotspot, then it's Oakley Vale, to the south of the main town, where an expansion masterplan is aiming to double Corby's population within 10 years. If you crave a nest with some existing character, look to the surrounding villages of Middleton, Cottingham, Gretton, Great Oakley and Stanion, which retain their traditional feel.

The combination of a new commuter line to the capital and the reinvigoration of the town centre should have nothing but a positive affect on Corby. Families, investors and professionals are already noticing the area as a place where they can live and work once again.

Your kind of people?

The steel industry attracted many Scots to the area, a fact reflected in the 2001 Census where nearly 20 per cent of the town's 50,000 inhabitants said they were Scottish-born. The Corby accent even has a Glaswegian twang that's referred to as "Corbyite". Parts of the town have crime rates above the national average, but it's a place of several faces, with outlying villages offsetting a few rough pockets.

Can you shop until you drop?

There is a limited selection of shops trapped in a Seventies town-planning nightmare. However, last October the Willow Place shopping centre opened, which forms part of the first phase of Corby's 21st-century facelift, with phases two and three promising more shops, cafés and restaurants. Designer boutiques are thin on the ground, but the no-nonsense mix of useful, everyday shops and restaurants have drawn in a new wave of shoppers, injecting life and money back into the town.

Green & pleasant?

Corby hasn't inherited a delightful Victorian pleasure ground or rows of immaculate Georgian terraces, but its reputation as one large industrial estate is changing. There are several open spaces and areas of woodland within Corby's district, such as Weldon Woodland Park and East Carlton Countryside Park, and the beautiful Welland Valley is only a short hop away.

Do the schools make the grade?

Rockingham school and St Patrick's & St Brendan's Catholic school – and the nearby Stanion school – all get excellent marks at primary level, while the state-run Brooke Weston City Technology College on the south side of the town has achieved 100 per cent pass rates for GCSEs over the past three years. Ten miles east is Oundle Independent school, which also scores full marks.



What's nearby?

Apart from December's opening of the new railway service, Corby is well served with transport links. The A43 and A14 at Kettering have helped entice industry into the town for decades. Corby lies within two hours' drive of four international airports: Birmingham, Luton, Stansted and Nottingham East Midlands.

What can you buy?

Barn Conversion
Price: £475,000

Minutes from central Corby is this barn conversion in Great Oakley. There are four bedrooms, two huge living rooms, four bathrooms and a vaulted kitchen, plus outbuildings, a garage and gardens.

Simpson West (01536 202 007; www.simpsonwest.co.uk)

Period Piece
Price: £399,000

This handsome five-bedroom house is about a mile from Corby in the pretty village of Middleton. It features a conservatory, a 40ft kitchen/family room, well-maintained gardens and a gazebo.

James Sellicks (01858 410 008, www.jamessellicks.com)

Cute Cottage
Price: £215,000

Set in the village of Stanion is this three-bedroom cottage. The sitting room features a stone fireplace, while the main bedroom extends to 16ft and has an en suite. There is also a useful outbuilding.

Yates Walker (01536 261 666, www.yateswalker.co.uk)

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