More For Your Money: Harringay Ladder

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Within the ladder, long rows of fairly similar, two-storey, bay-fronted homes predominate in this ebullient and ethnically mixed part of north London. The ladder was developed in a relatively short period of time in 1881, when Islington became filled to bursting.

"You can see that the ladder was planned to become a utopia, with schools, churches and shops," says Lydia Rivlin, who lives in nearby Muswell Hill but pounds the ladder's pavements in her role as deputy chair of the Tottenham Conservatives. "It was developed as the perfect place to live, and although it is not so perfect anymore, its basic structure is beautiful. I fell in love with this area before I became a member of the party executive, so I asked to take it on as my special area of responsibility."

Too many people, too much traffic and too few parking places are perennial problems. "Over the years, I've seen more of what are locally known as six-bell houses," Rivlin adds. "Especially on Wightman Road, which was elegant, but is not a nice road any longer - many large homes have been converted to single-room residences. I considered moving here, but decided against it because of the parking restrictions."

Bedsits are less likely inside the ladder. Most properties are too small to convert, and Haringey Council rigorously controls multiple occupancy. Houses on the "rung" roads are subject to special planning controls, and the council won a recent case that reached the High Court. Explaining his addition of two bedrooms to a property that already had five bedrooms, a property owner claimed that he was renovating the house for his family. But the delivery trucks told a different story. Alerted by neighbours, council enforcement officers discovered that rooms had been reduced in size, six new showers and toilets had been installed, and additional toilets and showers were destined for the living and dining rooms.

The inspectors concluded that "the property had effectively been converted into nine bed-sits with lockable doors on every bedroom and key meters for the gas and electricity supply." The council smelled a rat, the High Court agreed, and the conversion was halted in its tracks. Area activists are now lobbying against a cement plant on an industrial site next to the mainline tracks that form the Ladder's western border.

How much do properties cost here?

Two-bed conversion flats start at about £200,000, and three-bed houses are usually in a tight band between £310,000 and £330,000. Four-bedders cost about £350,000. The occasional three-bedder selling for £350,000 has probably undergone professional refurbishment, whereas the four-bedder on £300,000 probably needs it.

What are the flats like?

Wilkinson Byrne are selling two two-bed conversion flats on Falkland Road: a first-floor flat with exposed brickwork, stripped floors and doors, and sash windows (£199,999), and a ground-floor flat with original fireplaces and south-facing garden (£205,000).

What do the houses cost?

Each boasting "halls adjoining", a three-bed, bay-fronted semi on Raleigh Road is £319,995, and a four-bedder on Falkland Road is £325,000; both at Wilkinson Byrne. On Warham Road, a "larger than average" three-bed Victorian is £315,000 and an extended three-bedder is £3219,995; both at Cousins.

What does "halls adjoining" mean?

The front doors and hallways of each of two semis run down the middle of both properties, insulating the lounge and bedrooms in each from one another. This architectural touch is an effective noise-abatement tool today, and is a strong selling point in the area.

Any new developments?

Developer St James is building 622 residential units (619 according to the council) on a 15-acre site that, while not in the ladder itself, will affect it, bringing luxury flats and upmarket shops and restaurants to its doorstep. Currently available is the six-storey, 95-unit Emerson Building: with studios and one- and two-bed flats with underground parking, full-height windows, balconies and a communal roof terrace from £129,950. The refurbished Victorian pump house is now the site of the Pumphouse Dining Bar. (St James: 020 8347 4139.)

What's the transport like?

The southern end of the ladder is served by Harringay station, and the northern end by Hornsey station, one and two stops respectively from Finsbury Park, a major interchange for the Piccadilly and Victoria lines, and national rail to Kings Cross and the City. The southerners also have access to Silverlink's Harringay Green Lanes on the Barking-Gospel Oak line, while the northerners are near Turnpike Lane Tube.

Shopping facilities

Wightman Road is home to La Viña, a tapas restaurant. Wood Green High Road and Wood Green Shopping City are major shopping centres, and Green Lanes has numerous 24-hour fruit-and-veg shops, ethnic - mostly Greek and Turkish - restaurants and fast-food outlets.

And other amenities?

The Harringay Ladder is adjacent to Finsbury Park to the south and Alexandra Park near its northern border. The area has two high-street cinemas.