The Queen of the Suburbs

Ideal for both town mice and country mice, Ealing is traditionally a halfway house between rural Berkshire and London's West End. But its own streets are not without allure
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The Independent Online

Remarkably, the Queen of the Suburbs still reigns. "For Londoners in Victorian and Edwardian times, Ealing was a halfway house between the country and city," says Andrew Gilbert, of estate agents Winkworth. "After the war Ealing became well known as a bedsit area, but in the last 20 years it has gone from bedsits back to family homes."

Remarkably, the Queen of the Suburbs still reigns. "For Londoners in Victorian and Edwardian times, Ealing was a halfway house between the country and city," says Andrew Gilbert, of estate agents Winkworth. "After the war Ealing became well known as a bedsit area, but in the last 20 years it has gone from bedsits back to family homes."

Today, some houses are shrinking into flats. Prestige Properties is currently drilling into a site overlooking Ealing Common to convert an erstwhile dental surgery into 12 apartments, including three, three-bed flats. The miracle of Ealing is that relatively few of its massive homes have undergone such conversion.

Other developers currently active in Ealing include Barratt, which has two projects underway, Berkeley and Roseberry.

Barratt has a history of successful development in the area. Southern chairman David Pretty says:"Ealing's leisure amenities are among the best outside the West End, with a tremendous array of restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs. This lends the area a self-confident, cosmopolitan panache. And the transport network is very good, with quick and easy access to the West End, the motorways, Heathrow Airport and the Thames Valley silicon belt."

Mr Gilbert adds: "With Ealing's good access to cities west of London, we get couples where one works in central London and the other in Slough or Reading. Ealing is a good compromise." The area's good schools and numerous parks attract the kind of people who like Chiswick but dislike its prices. "Ealing is relatively good value compared to Chiswick, about 25 per cent cheaper with larger gardens," he adds.

Winkworth has branches in Ealing Common and South Ealing. "Ealing Common is a bit more central, with larger houses, up to seven and eight bedrooms. South Ealing has mainly two and three-bed houses and cottages," says Mr Gilbert.

David Fowler of Rolfe East says: "Thames Valley University is in Ealing, so the student letting market is always strong. And, contrary to what people have been saying, there is plenty of activity in the market, and now that summer is over we expect even more."

Ealing lacks the cachet of Chiswick, Wimbledon or Hampstead. "The properties sell themselves but I do spend a lot of time selling Ealing," says Mr Gilbert.

For the borough of Ealing as a whole, Land Registry statistics comparing average second-quarter prices for 1999 and 2000 show a jump from £146,000 to £184,000. Ealing may be cheaper than Chiswick, but the days of bargain-basement prices are long gone.

The Low-Down

Transport

The Central, District and Piccadilly underground lines serve Ealing. Paddington is less than 10 minutes on the Greenford/Slough rail line.

Prices

Starting prices, says Rolfe East's Mr Fowler, are £80,000 to £90,000 for a studio, £300,000 for a three-bed semi, and £850,000 to £1.75m for a very large, Edwardian detached home.

Properties, pools and parking

Many Ealing houses are double-fronted, boasting up to 10 bedrooms and off-street parking. Some apartment blocks have outdoor swimming pools and fitness centres.

Barratt and Berkeley

Barratt is building 23 townhouses at a derelict children's home on a three-acre site in Hathaway Gardens, and also converting an office building, Greystoke House, on Brunswick Road, into 40 apartments. Prices from £280,000 to £350,000. Berkeley's Montpelier Point will consist of 11, one and two-bed flats and six townhouses, priced from £275,000 to more than £600,000.

Prestige, Roseberry, Laing

Prestige expects prices to be approximately £190,000 to £400,000. At Roseberry's Montpelier Rise, two-bed flats sell for £250,000. Roseberry is developing a block of flats on the high street and five, three-bedroom houses in Warwick Road are planned by Laing.

Buyer wanted

The 22-acre Barclays Bank Sports Ground will probably remain open land after Weatherall Green & Smith find a buyer, although part of the plot may go residential. Chelsea football club and Marylebone Cricket Club are considering the site as a practice ground.

Shopping

Ealing's main shopping centre contains M&S, Safeway, Bentalls, Argos, scores of smaller shops and a Holmes Place Fitness Centre.

Park and drive

Ealing is bordered by two large parks, Gunnersbury and Osterley, along with Ealing Common, Hanger Hill Park, Pitshanger, Cleveland, Perivale, Montpelier and numerous other parks, playing fields and golf courses.

Summer fun

Ealing's parks are home to an annual summer festival, including jazz and blues, comedy, classical music, and a children's beach party complete with imported sand in Walpole Park.

Contacts

Barratt, 020-8810 7674; Berkeley (Sinton Andrews), 020-8566 2306); Prestige (Townends), 020-8579 9282; Rolfe East, 020-8567 2242; Winkworth, 020-8567 4242.

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