Hammersmith, on the other hand, is value for money — for now. Billions of pounds are being funnelled into housing and commercial schemes there, and serious plans are afoot to dismantle ghastly Hammersmith Flyover, its biggest blight.
The big stumbling block for a new “flyunder” tunnel is that the 2.5-mile scheme adds another £1.7 billion to Hammersmith’s regeneration bill, but the idea does have the backing of the council and Mayor Boris Johnson.
Buying agent Ed Tryon, of Lichfields, lives in Hammersmith with his wife and two children. “I love it, and its schools, restaurants and the river,” he says. In terms of schools, Tryon is delighted to find himself in the catchment area for the West London Free School, which opens a primary school next year. Seniors can try for Sacred Heart High School, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, or the West London Free School or Hammersmith Academy, which are rated “good”.
Hammersmith is also awash with academic private schools, including Latymer Upper and St Paul’s, and is well served by the Tube. There are Piccadilly, District, Circle and Hammersmith & City line services from Hammersmith, in Zone 2, and journeys to the West End take about 25 minutes. Commuters can be at their City desks in about 40 minutes.
Great fun — and great food
As for entertainment, there is an embarrassment of riches. The Hammersmith Apollo, where Kate Bush recently made her comeback, the Lyric Theatre and the Riverside Studios provide culture. Restaurants include institutions such as the River Café and new arrival The Brackenbury — one of Evening Standard food critic Fay Maschler’s favourite new restaurants of the year.
£150 million project: planning consent is in place for King Street in the heart of Hammersmith, with 195 new homes plus restaurants, shops and a cinema
Despite all this good stuff Hammersmith has suffered partly from its industrial past: the area was once littered with factories and gasworks, and later scarred by the building of the A4 out of London.
Ed Mead, executive director of Douglas & Gordon, says Hammersmith’s reputation as a gritty, commercial area, coupled with its slightly transient atmosphere with a high proportion of rental flats, once deterred buyers. “It was not where Chelsea wanted to live — even if they were less affluent,” he says. However, things are changing.
Since this is central London, Hammersmith’s Cinderella status does not mean it is a secret source of cheap houses. The average home, according to Zoopla, stands at £911,520, up 12.36 per cent in the last year. But this stands up well compared with Fulham, where the average price is £1,255,000. Ben Hunt, sales manager at Winkworth, says Hammersmith’s buyers tend to be second steppers priced out of Notting Hill and Kensington, or first-time buyers assisted by their parents, while a growing French community is spreading out from its traditional South Kensington heartland.
Hammersmith’s period housing stock is now being augmented by a series of new developments, led by St George’s Sovereign Court.
Its first phase, the 13-storey Montpellier House, has very recently launched with 77 flats, priced from £694,950 for two bedrooms to £2,499,950 for a three-bedroom property.
Mount Anvil and A2 Dominion, meanwhile, will start work “shortly” on a £60 million redevelopment of the famous Riverside Studios and neighbouring buildings at Queens Wharf, overlooking lovely Hammersmith Bridge. They will be replaced by 165 flats and a new arts centre. Slightly further down the line, developers Helical Bar and Grainger have planning permission for a £150 million mixed scheme which should transform dreary King Street in the heart of Hammersmith, with a new Curzon cinema, offices, shops, cafés and restaurants, along with a total of 195 homes.
These improvements, believes Douglas & Gordon’s Ed Mead, expunge Hammersmith’s industrial past and second-class citizen status.
“I call it emerging prime central London,” he says.
“It has got a fantastic geographical position, and it is now on the verge of realising its potential.”