Overview: My idea of luxury? A GP and a school

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It's happening all over the capital, and the little pocket of south London that I call home is no exception: the landscape is changing rapidly. Every parcel of land, every prefab and virtually every petrol station have vanished and been replaced by "luxury residential developments", packed in with a density that would surely gladden the heart of any advocate of city regeneration.

It's happening all over the capital, and the little pocket of south London that I call home is no exception: the landscape is changing rapidly. Every parcel of land, every prefab and virtually every petrol station have vanished and been replaced by "luxury residential developments", packed in with a density that would surely gladden the heart of any advocate of city regeneration.

But while these new homes may solve the housing problems of the lucky few who can afford them, their buyers may find themselves without the accompanying infrastructure we expect when we move; a doctor, a dentist and, luxury of luxuries, a school place.

Constanza Dominguez recently bought a four-bedroomed house in East Dulwich. She has three children, so she likes the extra space but is not so happy about the services: "We moved to get more room and a garden but we didn't reckon on how hard it would be get school places. I've rung two doctors' surgeries, but they both say that they have closed their books."

Local primary school head-teacher Peter Coleman says that Constanza may be in for a long wait for school places at least. He has been head of his school for 17 years and has witnessed the increasing demand for school places that new developments bring. "When they built a development of three- and four-bedroom units nearby a few years ago, they made no extra provision for places. Local schools were just expected to absorb them and it became extremely difficult."

Coleman predicts that things will worsen and, while the outlook is grim for primary places, by secondary the situation is dire: "This year has been horrendous, the worst ever. Out of 90 11-year-olds in my school, 50 are still unplaced." He blames what he calls the "clear dysfunction" between the local authority's planning department and education service: "They obviously don't talk to each other."

But while local authorities and the government go down the high-density route in a bid to regenerate our cities, it is, ironically, this very lack of strategic planning that persuades many to leave for pastures new. I've lost count of the numbers of friends and acquaintances who've gone because of a dearth of schools. And when they go, they take their much-needed skills with them.

Those who opt to stay in London and move into the catchment area of any half-decent school may find themselves compromising on space and paying a premium. Hamptons International's Carl Davenport is based in the Dulwich office and has many clients who are moving in order to be nearer particular schools. "I'm constantly amazed at how rigid people are over schools. They are prepared to concede on price and in terms of space but a school is a 'must have'." Davenport has watched prices creep up over the years and has known buyers pay £100,000 extra to get into certain roads. But he warns that even these buyers may find themselves taking risks, as catchment areas shrink, especially where new developments have placed greater demands. "It's always a gamble, but it's one that more and more buyers find that they have to take."

Comments