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The Independent Online
Don't believe the scaremongers

One of London's largest agents has condemned reports about the market remaining depressed as 'scaremongering'. Prices have gone up since May and are unlikely to be held back by interest rate rises, says Michael O'Flaherty of Barnard Marcus. Rates are still comparatively low compared with four years ago and most lenders are relaxing their rules to stimulate business. But the picture is patchy. Prices of four-bed houses in south and west London have risen 9 per cent in the past three months compared with an average of 5.6 per cent across the capital. A three-bedder north of the river has gone up almost 4 per cent, while the average inside the M25 is almost 5.5 per cent. One-bed flats are just under 2 per cent higher, but while two-bed apartments have risen more than 2.6 per cent, the figure is half that in Surrey. This optimism seems fairly widespread. More than 80 per cent of London members questioned by the National Association of Estate Agents believe the market will get better this year. Prices are still in the doldrums, however, as the improvements apply to increased sales rather than values.

Down by the riverside

Fairview has won planning permission for more than 170 homes on a timber wharf overlooking the canal at Norwood Green, Middlesex, that will cost between pounds 36,000 and pounds 95,000. Meanwhile, Barratt has knocked down shops on Chiswick High Road for 35 flats starting at pounds 90,000. And rather than convert an office block on the river at Hythe, Staines, the company has cleared it for 16 apartments and 12 houses overlooking the river. These will be more up-market, ranging in price from pounds 130,000 to pounds 230,000.

No, minister

Norman Glass, chief economist to the Department of the Environment, is understood to be telling his political masters not to try manipulating the economy by tightening mortgage lending. In a lecture today at the Guildhall, sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, he will also take a dig at Treasury threats to housing benefit.

Playwright's home?

Literary buffs looking to rent might want to consider Tilbury Hall in east Suffolk. Bidwells, of Cambridge, say it was once owned by Edward de Vere, suggested in one theory as the real Shakespeare. The five-bed hall and its 80 acres of grounds has a price tag of pounds 3,500 a month.