Hot Spot: Altrincham, Cheshire

Old Trafford and 'Coronation Street' are just down the road from this celebrity commuter town, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

Manchester United players and Coronation Street stars need somewhere to lay their heads, and in Greater Manchester the upmarket dormitory town of Altrincham is just the ticket, especially for the footballers. There is an ample supply of homes large enough to provide security and privacy as well as the necessary standard of luxury and comfort. And if the limo blows a tyre, Old Trafford is only a few stops away on the Metrolink.

Altrincham's six wards - Altrincham, Bowdon, Hale, Broadheath, Timperley and Village - are home to some 60,000 people, but more than half of the 25,500 households are occupied by only one or two people. Altrincham has a fair number of large apartment blocks.

Now a satellite of Manchester, and better-known as a celebrity commuter town, it's interesting to note that Altrincham has its own venerable history. A Royal Charter was granted in 1290, and the current Market Hall opened in 1880. Well into the last century, cotton weaving was king primarily thanks to the Bridgewater Canal, which was begun in 1790.

According to Phillip Diggle of estate agents Gascoigne Halman, quality properties, good schools, convenient shopping and easy access to the Peak District National Park and the Lake District attract prosperous families and retirees. "Altrincham has an excellent shopping centre, with department stores and all the big chains, and excellent private and state schools, both mixed and separate sexes," says Diggle.

"The property market is very positive, with a lot of homes coming onto the market and selling quickly as long as they are sensibly priced. The euphoria of recent years is gone, but prices increased 18 per cent last year according to the Land Registry, and for this year, I predict between eight and 10 per cent. We have already risen four per cent since January."

The low crime rate relative to central Manchester makes this area appealing to part-time residents. "Because Altrincham is a nice community close to Manchester, people who need to be in the Manchester area a few days a week buy a small home here. It is safer than the city centre, so they can relax when they leave their property and return to their main home."

Spain has an especially strong allure for Cheshire generally, and Diggle notes that many Altrincham residents manage two homes: "Downsizing locals exchange their large home for a small flat or house in Altrincham and retain enough money to buy a property in Spain."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

Altrincham's train and Metrolink station provides fast, frequent access to central Manchester, with stops at Manchester United's Old Trafford. The M56 and M60 are nearby, providing links to Chester as well as Manchester. Manchester Airport is six miles away.

Shopping

Altrincham has the usual range of high street stores, including Rackhams (House of Fraser), M&S, Sainsbury's, Tesco, and a 200-stall covered market on Tuesday and Saturday, which was chartered in 1290, selling fish and cheese, clothing, plants and flowers, as well as household and other goods. A flea and antique market operates Thursdays, and the farmers' market is monthly.

Attractions

Dunham Massey in Altrincham is an 18th-century stately home with 250-acre deer park and newly restored Elizabethan sawmill. Other National Trust properties in the area include Hare Hill, Lyme Park, Nether Alderley Mill, Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Estate, and Tatton Hall and Park. Near Nantwich is the early Victorian-Jacobean Arley Hall with its prizewinning 12-acre gardens.

Entertainment

Planners have approved a multiplex cinema, which will join the recently refurbished Garrick Theatre and The Club Theatre. The town has a choral society, and concerts and special events are staged at Dunham Massey.

Sports

The leisure centre has fitness equipment and a climbing wall, and a new fitness centre next to Goose Green is scheduled to open in the autumn. A golf course is within walking distance of the town centre, and four others are nearby. The town also has an ice rink.

First timers

For a small flat or starter home, prices start from £100,000. A three-bed Victorian semi in Altrincham is £205,000, and a similar three-bed bay-fronted detached house with garage in Timperley is £282,000, at Gascoigne Halman. A few miles east of Altrincham in Baguley, a three-bed mid-mews house costs £89,500, and a modern three-bed semi with off-road parking costs £129,950, via Bridgfords. Baguley is adjacent to the M56, near the airport and Wythenshawe Park and Hall.

Flats

At 'Broomleigh' in Altrincham, a two-bed garden apartment with private patio and parking costs £335,000, and a two-bed flat with two balconies costs £425,000. Hazelmere in Bowdon has a three-bed flat at £585,000 and another, with four bedrooms and a study, at £950,000. Littlemere Court has 11 two-bed flats and penthouses with underground parking, from £365,000 to £399,000, at Gascoigne Halman.

Millionaires' Row

'Jandra' is a six-bed, five-reception detached house with enclosed tennis court in Hale Barns, £1.25m. The five-bedroomed 'Birdsong' has driveway, double garage and thatched eyebrow windows in Altrincham, £1.1m; Gascoigne Halman. A five-bed three- reception detached house with a study, galleried landing and double garage is £995,000 at Bridgfords.

House versus flat

Two three-bedders close in price: a former show flat with undercroft parking, £359,950, and an end terrace in Hale with off-road parking, £385,000; Meller Braggins.

Estate agents

Bridgfords, 0161 941 2241; Gascoigne Halman, 0161 929 1500; Meller Braggins, 0161 9287762.

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