The future commuter: Growth of satellite towns

Crossrail isn't the only train link that's transforming Britain's property map. From Corby to Kent, a new generation of satellite towns will be arriving soon. Jonathan Christie investigates what it could mean for you
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The Independent Online

Whose line is it anyway?
High Speed 1

November 2007 saw the sparkling new St Pancras International open, creating London's best connected station and finally linking the UK properly to the Continent via a dedicated line. December 2009 will hold even more possibilities for the South-east's commuters when High Speed 1 starts to operate a domestic service on the Eurostar's speedy new tracks.

The stats are impressive. St Pancras to Stratford, east London: seven minutes... St Pancras to Ebbsfleet, Kent: 17 minutes... St Pancras to Ashford: 37 minutes and St Pancras to Canterbury: 60 minutes. These slashed journey times put Kent at the heart of a rail renaissance, unlocking areas hitherto considered too far for commuting.



What can you buy?

An influx of London wealth feeding Ashford's housing market would push prices much higher than they currently are – just above average – to something rivalling the price tags around fellow county towns such as Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks.

Madeleine Rose (01580 765 855, www.madeleine-rose.com) is selling a delightful five-bed listed house in Kenardington for £599,950 that has all the features you'd want from a traditional Kentish home. It's only seven miles to Ashford, but if it was located nearer to Tunbridge Wells, the asking price would be nearer seven figures.

Canterbury has always existed on the outer reaches of the commuter's map. At 92 minutes into London, it's a hardcore schlep into the city every day. HS1, however, is planning to shave over 30 minutes off this journey time. Jackson-Stops (020-7664 6646, www.jackson-stops.co.uk) is selling a futuristic home ripe for a buyer with a bonus to burn at Harbledown near Canterbury. It featured on Channel 4's Grand Designs and offers 5,800 sq ft of 21st-century living in over four acres of glorious grounds. When Canterbury becomes only an hour from central London, what premium will be added to its £2m asking price? Only time will tell.

Whose line is it anyway?
Crossrail

Since Crossrail got its green light last October, there's been a rising expectation that house prices will rocket all along its proposed route, from Maidenhead in Berkshire through London to Shenfield in Essex. The real benefits will be felt out west where access to the City's financial district has meant several Tube changes, bolstering an already strong property market around Maidenhead, Burnham and up-and-coming Slough. But any evidence of a sustained Crossrail effect is a long way off. This is a serious waiting game that could take several twists and turns before trains start to run in 2017.

Average house prices in Berkshire villages whose stations will take Crossrail trains saw price surges near the announcement. But local agents are not hearing Crossrail being mentioned as a box to be ticked by prospective buyers.

What can you buy?

Slough looks sure to gain when the link opens and the town's house prices have held against a market in slow decline. New-builds for young professionals and detached family homes seem to be earmarked as winners, with some sellers taking a very long-term view by delaying the decision to sell until trains are running.

Knight Frank (01483 565 171, www.knightfrank.co.uk) is selling Phase 1 at the Mosaic apartments in central Slough with a two-bed unit going for £215,995. Perfect for a young, city-working couple, features include balconies, terraces and underground parking as well as chrome fittings, walnut floors and a grand central courtyard. A few miles west in Taplow is a grand four-bed riverside home. Andrew Milsom (01628 622 211, www.andrewmilsom. co.uk) is asking £1.3m for this imposing house.

Whose line is it anyway?
Edinburgh Waverley

By 1862, the Scottish Waverley railway was running a full service between Edinburgh and Carlisle. A century later, the Beeching report had closed it. But another twist in the tale for this Borders stretch of track is in the pipeline.

In March of this year the Scottish Government gave the go-ahead to re-open the line through Midlothian with a future possibility of it ultimately running through to Carlisle once again. Ten stations (seven of which will be new) and thousands of new homes will line the 35-mile stretch of track down to the border, giving 200,000 people the option of catching a train. Work will hopefully start during 2009 but definitely before 2011, a date that coincides with the end of the present parliament. Despite some of the old infrastructure still being in place, all of it will need upgrading or replacing and there is yet to be a date set for the first trains appearing.



What can you buy?

Melrose, the nearest centre to the proposed Tweedbank terminal, sits at the bottom of the Eildon Hills with the River Tweed snaking through its centre. A mile from Melrose is the village of Darnick where Rettie (01896 824 070, www.rettie.co.uk) is selling a charming late-Georgian cottage within the conservation area for £165,000. It's cosy, authentic and just the ticket for a professional couple looking for a bolthole less than an hour from Edinburgh.

Just north of Melrose is the town of Galashiels. Local agents have noticed some investment buying here since the Waverley announcement in March, but prices are static and regular buyers are not mentioning the new line as a draw. Premiums and rises are anticipated, but as construction still appears a long way off, buyers are taking a "suck-it-and-see" tack. It's not only the towns that may benefit. A few miles west of Galashiels, nestled in the Upper Tweed Valley, is Caddonfoot House, an imposing late Victorian Manor that draws its architectural style from the local vernacular. Its five bedrooms and three receptions have beautiful plasterwork whilst outside are well-maintained grounds, a folly, gate lodge and spectacular views across the valley. Caddonfoot House is on the market for £925,000 through Savills (0131-247 3717, www.savills.co.uk).

Whose line is it anyway?
East Midland Parkway

By December, travellers who live between Loughborough in Leicestershire and the city of Nottingham will have more choice on how they get to the capital. Network Rail is building a brand new stop at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, one mile from the M1, which is being branded as East Midlands Parkway station.



What can you buy?

The district directly affected by the new station is divided by junction 24 of the M1. To the west are Castle Donington, Hemington and Lockington, all in the shadow of East Midlands airport. Below average house prices in these villages increase their potential for price gains once the new trains are running. John German (01509 239121, www. johngerman.co.uk) is selling a fantastic four-bed thatched house in Hemington for £525,000. It's Grade II-listed, and along with four receptions and three bathrooms, there's a spectacular barn. West of the M1, the airways get quieter and house prices rise. Kegworth, Kingston on Soar and East and West Leake all enjoy property prices £40,000 above the national index as well as excellent schools and less congested countryside. Savills (0115 934 8000, www.savills.co.uk) is selling a six-bed wing in Kingston Hall. Period details are preserved and along with a private garden, there's use of 16 acres of communal grounds, all for £795,000.

Whose line is it anyway?
Corby extension

Corby in Northamptonshire is the largest town in Europe without a station. There was one here, but it closed 42 years ago (although a shuttle to Kettering was introduced in 1987, then closed in 1990). But from December, after 10 years of campaigning, Corby's line will reopen. A new station will form the centrepiece of several phases of development that will unlock millions of pounds of investment and create 1,200 retail and office jobs in a proposed business zone on nearby land.

This kind of boost is long overdue for a town stuck in the property doldrums and the proposed new link operated by East Midlands Trains will give Corbyites an hourly service into London St Pancras with a journey time of about 75 minutes.

What can you buy?

Below-average house prices are the norm here, with property selling £75,000 below the national average. But the new line to the capital and reinvigoration of the town centre should have a positive effect. The centre of Corby is far from being gentified, but surrounding areas are ripe for buyers seeking kerb-appeal and value. For first-time buyers there's plenty of good value new-build, especially in Oakley Vale, just south of the town, where massive expansion is planned. Bellway Homes (0845 263 6447, www.bellway.co.uk) has new five-bed homes for £229,995. For buyers wanting character, head for villages on the edge of the scenic Welland Valley. King West (01858 435 970, www. kingwest.co.uk) has a six-bed country house for £575,000 in Great Easton – two miles north-east of Corby.

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