Peterborough: overlooked, under budget

Peterborough: overlooked, under budget

Ruth Bloomfield visits a cathedral city where a townhouse with four bedrooms is only £350,000
Take a walk through Orton Waterville, admiring its 13th-century church, the village green and perhaps stopping for a drink at The Windmill pub, and it is easy to imagine you are in the depths of the tranquil English countryside.

Peterborough has its own cathedral
© Alamy
Historic setting: Peterborough has its own cathedral

In fact, it is a village subsumed by a city — and that city has just been named as one of the best destinations outside London for commuters, based on analysis of factors including house prices, train services and schools.

A CONVENIENT COMMUTE


Peterborough is perhaps not the most obvious choice for a decamping Londoner, and certainly it has its downsides (of which more later) but research by Carter Jonas suggests its value for money alone means it is worth considering over more fashionable choices.

"Peterborough ticks all the boxes as a convenient commuter location," says Catherine Penman, head of research at Carter Jonas and author of the firm's Commuter Index.

"Though considered perhaps less gentrified than the stereotypical commuter hubs, house prices in Peterborough are significantly more affordable — with average prices at £350,000 for a four-bedroom townhouse and £240,000 for a two-bedroom village cottage. This compares to Winchester, where prices average at £700,000 for a four-bedroom town property and £375,000 for a cottage.

"Mortgage prices are therefore lower and with average length of train journey into the capital at 53 minutes, Peterborough ranks higher than Oxford, Cambridge and Marlborough as a top commuter location."

A RAIL UPGRADE


The commute to this Cambridgeshire cathedral city, on the edge of the Fens, is certainly very do-able, though annual season tickets are steep at £5,620.

Network Rail is currently working on a £43 million upgrade of Peterborough station. The work will ease overcrowding, said a spokeswoman, and the new and longer platforms mean the promise of more frequent services when work finishes in December next year.

Another plus point is some excellent schools — the prize among parents is The King's School, which is rated "outstanding" by Ofsted and which became an academy earlier this year.

Thomas Deacon Academy and Jack Hunt School are both considered "good" by the Government's schools' watchdog. For fee-paying parents, options include Peterborough High School, and the city is also within easy reach of the prestigious trio of Oundle, Stamford and Uppingham schools.

PERFECTLY HIDEOUS ARCHITECTURE


Before you start packing your bags there is, however, a significant downside to consider. Peterborough was the focus of a huge amount of ugly postwar building, and even locals admit that swathes of it are perfectly hideous. Café culture is an alien concept, and some residential areas are distinctly no-go.

There are, however, some great enclaves if you know where to look. James Eastaway, a managing partner at Fine & Country, said: "There are a few pockets of Peterborough which are lovely, and the rest is not so good."

His top tip is Orton Waterville, where he estimates you can pick up a four-bedroom cottage for around £500,000 or, at the top end, a manor house plus land for around £1.25 million.

PICK OUT A PRETTY VILLAGE


Terry Lucking, managing director of Lucking Estates, adds Waterville, Werrington and Longthorpe to the list. And within five or 10 minutes' drive of the city centre are proper country villages such as Castor and Ailsworth. Prices here are a little higher — think £600,000 for a substantial four bedroom cottage.

Eastaway estimates that 70 per cent of his clients are London commuters. "Historically popular commuter towns are very expensive, and most of them will still take you 45 minutes to get to London," he said. "People are becoming more aware that Peterborough is a good commute, although there is still a bit of snobbishness about it."

On the other hand, Eastaway estimates that Peterborough is half the price of Cambridge, which is about 40 miles away, and Lucking believes that change is afoot.

NOT EXACTLY IVY LEAGUE BUT DEFINITELY CLEVER


Though not quite on a par with its Ivy League neighbour, Peterborough is on its way to becoming a university city which should brighten up its social life. University Centre Peterborough celebrates its fourth anniversary in September.

"By the end of the year there will be close to 1,000 students," said Lucking. "In 10 or 20 years, we will be a proper university city."

There are also signs of some interesting new-build schemes. Work has started on a 295-home development 20 minutes' walk from the station. Vista, by Morris Homes (morrishomes.co.uk), will be zero carbon and the first two-, three- and four-bedroom homes go on sale in the autumn.

Revealed: the London boroughs with the strongest annual house price growth

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