Kensal Rise has risen

Last year Brent saw Britain’s fastest-rising house prices, cementing Kensal Rise's transformation from ‘drive-by shooting capital’ to starry Nappy Valley. We track the secrets to its success.
Welcome to Brent — once called the drive-by-shooting capital of the UK. Before that it was the People’s Republic of Brent, ravaged by poverty and famed from the late Eighties for outspoken local MP “Red” Ken Livingstone, London’s first elected mayor.
When I moved to Kensal Rise in Brent, the place was derided. But “The Rise” has now risen, earning a reputation as a celebrity haunt-meets-Nappy Valley. Last year Brent experienced Britain’s fastest-rising house prices, outpacing even the oligarch hotspots of Kensington and Knightsbridge.
Developers, City money, foreign buyers and downshifting families — “the majority from Notting Hill”, says David Roberts of Foxtons — continue to send prices soaring. “It’s nuts at the moment,” explains Winkworth director Stewart Boyd. “Kensal Rise is now £850 a square foot. At the top end, in Queen’s Park, it’s £1,000-plus.” A 2,500sq ft family house in Kensal Rise that cost £570,000 in 2002 now sells, if modernised, for almost £2 million.  
The Yanks are coming to live near the American School in neighbouring St John’s Wood, while the French are so thick on the ground, a Lycée Français is opening in Brent’s former town hall.
David Cameron’s strategy guru, Steve Hilton, has spent a year on renovations at his Kensal Rise home, including digging a basement, while ex-Arsenal footballer Ian Wright, now a media personality and soccer pundit, is a local. Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman is in the even smarter Queen’s Park, as are actress Thandie Newton and handbag designer Bill Amberg. However, in the last 18 months the area has become “more City than media”, according to Winkworth’s Boyd.


£7,778 a month: a four-bedroom house in Mount Pleasant Road, Kensal Rise, is available to rent through Foxtons

There is a lot to recommend it — from its wide, tree-lined streets to the green of Queen’s Park. Tiverton Green has a great open-air gym, blossoming trees, a children’s cycling track is being built and more new sports and recreation facilities are in the pipeline. The outlook is so good that bang opposite the park, someone has just torn down a £3 million house to do a new build.
NW10 is unique and groovy, with community spirit. Hot-desking, camaraderie and cappuccinos happen in Minkies Deli. There are outdoor screenings and Queen’s Park Day, a free community event. Then there’s The Lexi Cinema, Britain’s first independent boutique cinema and social enterprise, staffed by local volunteers.
Transport links are great, with the No. 52 bus to Harvey Nichols, and the No. 6 to Oxford Street — the teenagers’ lifeline. London Overground is a mere three stops to Hampstead Heath and Queen’s Park and Kensal Green Tubes take 12 minutes to central London.
Chamberlayne Road, once full of pound shops, was recently dubbed “London’s hippest street” by Vogue. A former model and a Vogue writer have opened a new womenswear boutique there called Lark, and there’s the divine Scarlet & Violet, Nigella Lawson’s favourite flower shop. It’s the new Portobello, too. You’ll find Niche, Verandah and Circus, with reconditioned Fifties sofas, rugs and cushions, and characterful Sixties chandeliers.
Along with all this have come the estate agents. Foxtons and Winkworth are relatively new to the area, while Greene & Co has a fake turf-covered car bearing the slogan: “Our patch.”


Staffed by volunteers: The Lexi in Chamberlayne Road, the UK’s first social enterprise boutique independent cinema
Restaurants include Sacro Cuore in Chamberlayne Road, which draws huge queues for authentic Neapolitan pizzas. Queen’s Park Farmers’ Market is voted London’s best, and L’Angolo deli has superb homemade food. The butcher sells salt marsh lamb shanks and there’s lobster at the fishmonger’s.
Where to buy

In Kensal Rise: Dundonald Road,  Crediton Road, Wrentham Avenue, Mount Pleasant Road, Tiverton Road, Aylestone Avenue.
  • Find houses and flats for sale in Kensal Rise
In Queen’s Park: Chevening Road, Milman Road, Kingswood Road and any of the roads off the park — Keslake, Kempe and Creighton Roads.
  • Find houses and flats for sale in Queen's Park
The Lexi Cinema, Chamberlayne Road, stages Q&As with directors and screens live performances, including from the Metropolitan Opera of New York. Brent council’s free fitness training sessions are held weekly at Tiverton Green. Paradise by Way of Kensal Green is a gastropub and live music bar in Kilburn Lane.
Private schools serving the area include the American School in London, St John’s Wood; University College School Hampstead and South Hampstead High, while Queens Park Community School is an oversubscribed, mixed state secondary.

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