Commuter watch - Chelmsford

A £1 billion scheme will give Chelmsford's Beaulieu Park 3,600 new homes
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Historic Chelmsford
© Alamy
Historic Chelmsford where Henry VIII built a palace to woo ill-fated Anne Boleyn
Almost 500 years ago King Henry VIII paid £1,000 for a tract of land in Essex and invested another £17,000 building a summer residence, which he is said to have then used to romance his unfortunate second wife Anne Boleyn.

Beaulieu Palace has long since vanished — a private school now stands on its ancient parkland — but the name lives on in a modern development of about 700 homes just to the north of Chelmsford.

Beaulieu Park is a high-spec scheme with period-style homes that have appropriately hefty price tags (the largest sell for up to £900,000 and are loved by bonus-bearing City types). However, over the next few years the scheme is set to grow more than fivefold.

Developer Countryside Zest has unveiled a £1 billion plan to build 3,600 more homes there — the first of which should go on sale at the end of next year. A new railway station with services to Liverpool Street, three new primary schools, a secondary school, open space and sports and recreation facilities are all schemed into the 604-acre site.

End to rush-hour gridlock

At present, commuters living at Beaulieu Park and in the surrounding villages are faced with extreme rush-hour gridlock to get to Chelmsford station, a journey which can frustratingly take longer than the subsequent 34-minute hop into town. And the petrol and parking costs only add to the £3,420 annual season ticket price.

Beaulieu Park - five-bedroom house
£635,000: a handsome five-bedroom home on the Beaulieu Park estate (0845 544 0481)
A dedicated Beaulieu Park station will end this misery and should boost property prices. According to research from Savills estate agents, each extra commuting minute saved puts £1,000 on a typical property.

If you want to get in before the surge, Karl Manning, manager at Fenn Wright estate agents, said you could pick up a three-bedroom semi on the existing estate for about £250,000, or a two-bedroom apartment for around £160,000.

At the top end, a roomy executive mansion would cost between £800,000 and £900,000. If you want to take advantage of Beaulieu Park's nascent facilities, but would prefer a more rural feel, then the villages of Great and Little Waltham, just to the north, would be the obvious choices.

Both are full of character, with pretty listed cottages selling for around £200,000 to £225,000, although you will pay north of £1 million for a manor house with land. Usefully, both villages have their own primary school and pub — the Green Man and the White Hart Inn respectively.

Jeremy Potter, a senior planning officer at the council, said that while details will need hammering out before planning permission is given (expected this summer) the authority wants to see 8,000 new homes built by 2021. The expansion of Beaulieu Park is a key part of this.

Powers Farm
£1.1 million: 17th-century Powers Farm, Little Waltham, Chelmsford (01245 254600)
"We have had to look at greenfield sites because we cannot accommodate all our housing requirements on brownfield sites," said Potter. "It has been a difficult choice, and you will obviously find people who disagree, but the principle has been established." Potter envisages Beaulieu Park as self-contained with its own shops, schools and facilities.

But of course Chelmsford itself is on the doorstep, with plenty to recommend it. King Edward VI Grammar — or Kegs as it is known locally — is one of the top secondary schools in the UK. It is boys-only to the sixth form, but younger girls can opt for excellent Chelmsford County High School.

Top town

In 2007 the market town was voted one of the best places to live in the UK, and though the centre is full of predictable chain stores, Old Moulsham has a great mix of cafés and independent shops.

Later this month, Genesis housing association is expected to be granted planning consent for another major scheme. Its 507-home development, the bulk of it comprising affordable properties aimed at first-time buyers, is to be built on the former site of the Angela Ruskin University in the town centre.

Chelmsford travel

* Commuting time: 34 minutes to Liverpool Street; 60 minutes to St Pancras International
* Annual season ticket: £3,420

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