Hot Spot: Loughborough

Once famous for bellfounding, Loughborough is now better known as a thriving university town, says Robert Liebman
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University towns are rewarding in more ways than one: discuss. For starters, a university generally boosts local amenities. Universities sponsor many recitals, art exhibitions and lectures which are usually open to the public. And with instructors and support staff as well as students needing accommodation, universities enable some parents to offset some or all of their child's education costs through property ownership.

Midway between, and smaller and more obscure than both Leicester and Nottingham, Loughborough has a total of about 20,000 students, most from the university and the remainder from the smaller but sizeable Loughborough College. "We have more than 13,000 full- and part-time students and almost 3,000 staff," says Malcolm Brown, director of residential organisation at Loughborough University. "Less than 5,000 live in hall accommodation, 1,000 live at home, and about 5,000 are renters. Most property sales in town are going into rental."

Although the university is growing in size and academic reputation, its public profile is still modest. "Because we have no major football team, the town tends to fall off the map," says Brown. "The university is best known for sport and engineering, and it is ideally located in the centre of the country, just off the motorway and near East Midlands Airport. It is very convenient for students who travel to the university but don't live here."

Brown claims that "Loughborough is a well-kept secret, a nice sleepy town which has improved considerably over the past five years. The shops and night life are better. For example, many traditional smoky pubs are now modern café-bars. And the town is safe. Many of our clients say that safety is a key issue for them."

Unlike some university towns, where major swathes of investment properties have been gobbled up by one or two large investors, "We don't have any big investment landlords. Most landlords are individuals with two or three properties." This group includes parents of students who do not necessarily sell when their children graduate: "Over the years, their child makes friends with other students who take over the tenancy," Brown explains.

Famous for bellfounding - the bell of St Paul's Cathedral was made here - industries such as pharmaceuticals and electrical engineering are now more prominent. David Woodfield of estate agents Andrew Granger says: "Much of Loughborough's popularity boils down to its convenient position in the heart of middle England and easy access to several motorways - M1, M69, M42 - and East Midlands Airport. Property prices rose between 20 and 25 per cent in 2002."


Getting there

London St Pancras is 90 minutes away, but most commuters drive to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Birmingham. Trains serve Luton (87 miles), Stansted and Gatwick airports. East Midlands Airport, seven miles out, has regular flights to Belfast, Scotland and Europe.


Loughborough has large supermarkets in and around town, and a new centre, The Rushes, will open later this year. A large street market is open Thursday and Saturday, and a farmers' market is fortnightly. Department stores and larger shopping centres are in Leicester and Nottingham, and at Fosse Park Centre, 15 minutes away, at junction 21 on the M1.

Leisure and fitness

Charnwood Leisure Centre has swimming pools and a fitness suite. Derby Road sports grounds is used by weekend-league football and cricket clubs, and has hockey, football and rugby pitches and cricket wickets open to the public. Charnwood Water has angling.


Loughborough has a six-screen cinema, and plays, concerts and other events are held in the Town Hall and at Loughborough University. The town hosts an Annual Fair (November), Carnival (usually May), Leicestershire Festival of Arts and Crafts, and South Croxton Arts Festival.


Old Rectory Museum has a local history and archaeology collection and, with part of its structure dating from the 13th century, is itself an artefact. The Carillon Tower observatory is open to the public. There are both red and fallow deer in the 850-acre Bradgate Country Park.


According to Bradford and Bingley, two- or three-bedroom terraces cost between £80,000 and £90,000, and homes in the Charnwood Forest area are above £200,000.


A one-bed studio in a modern block is £54,950 at Connells. A two-bed mid-terrace period cottage with beamed ceiling in Mountsorrel, and a two-bed end terrace with large garden in Sileby, each cost £89,950 at Freckletons.

Top end

Large homes on plots of an acre or more start at about £500,000. Nearing completion is a large, detached, five-bed house in the style of an Elizabethan manor house, with a double garage on a half-acre-plus plot in Old Woodhouse, £825,000. A farm with outbuildings and planning consent for residential development is available at a price upwards of £1.5m; Andrew Granger.

Flexible housing

In Kegworth, six miles from Loughborough, a six-bed end terrace suitable for conversion into two units or for conversion to a shop costs £198,000; Freckletons.


A four-bed detached bungalow on private grounds on the River Soar with double garage, conservatory, mooring and fishing rights is £330,000. A four-bed L-shaped bungalow with double garage and front and rear gardens in Long

Whatton, £375,000; Connells.

Estate Agents

Andrew Granger, 01509 235534; Bradford & Bingley, 01509 218006; Connells, 01509 268831; Freckletons, 01509 214564.