Commuting from Kent: where to find new family homes under £250k - close to high-speed HS1 train links

With high-speed transport links, improved motorway networks and homes under £250k, families are still finding value in little known parts of the "Garden of England". 

HS1, the high-speed rail link through north Kent, has been a game-changer for the county’s commuters by cutting journey times to the capital to under an hour from previously “long haul” locations such as Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and the Medway towns.

Together with an improved motorway network, this is bringing £17 billion of economic benefits to a traditionally investment-starved region, according to economics analyst Volerra, and propelling some places into property hotspots.

Kent is one of England’s most diverse counties, with raw and refined areas — countryside and coastal — plus a former industrial swathe around Ebbsfleet that is benefiting from ambitious regeneration and lots of new homes.Yet property prices are quite low.

“Prices have yet to catch up with transport upgrades and some places stand out as particularly good value,” says Mark Quinn, managing director of Quinn Estates, which has more than 20 projects in the pipeline.

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Victory Pier: a mixed development in Gillingham with apartments starting at £255,000

“You can buy a three-bedroom house in a really well-connected part of Kent such as Ashford — 40 minutes to St Pancras — for less than £250,000.”

Ashford, where Quinn is building a 660-home scheme, is a key growth area with a £2.5 billion development strategy in place. Its population is forecast to double in the next 25 years.

Thirtysomethings Grace and Jon Neville moved there from private rented accommodation in Forest Hill, buying a four-bedroom detached house for £433,995 at a development called St Andrew’s Park.

“We wanted to start a family but it was impossible for us to buy a big enough house in London. Here we’ve got much more for our money and the commute from Ashford is painless,” says Grace.

Sam Stevens, an independent property surveyor specialising in land acquisition, commutes to London from Folkestone three times a week.After decades of decline he says there is a new wave of optimism in the harbour towns of Folkestone and Dover. Both were elegant seaside resorts in their Victorian heyday, and some prized architecture and period properties remain. A number of restoration projects are under way and there are plans for showpiece cultural and leisure venues, new marinas and a makeover of the promenades.

In Dover, an initiative called Sea Change aims to connect the hilltop castle with the refurbished esplanade and provide continental-style pavement cafés via a “land bridge” .

Stevens also tips the cathedral city of Canterbury and says Deal, a seaside town with protected architecture, is the “new Whitstable”.

Former Eversley College in Folkestone town centre has been redeveloped into 42 new and refurbished homes. Prices from £275,000. Call 01303 268141.

At Sevastopol Place, Canterbury, a scheme of 30 two-bedroom houses at a former barracks cost from £210,000. Call Annington on 01227 454925.

HEADWAY IN THE MEDWAY

Medway Renaissance is a co-ordinated project aiming to transform eight miles of riverfront, linking Chatham, Rochester, Rainham, Gillingham and Strood into an 8,000-home “linear city”.

Chatham is at the centre of the action, with high-rise apartments and family houses built alongside a protected Georgian quarter, a new 300-berth marina and retail complex plus leisure attractions.

St Mary’s Island, once a dumping ground for the naval base, has been transformed into a 150-acre “green” neighbourhood and has attractive bright-coloured, timber-clad houses with sun decks and steeply pitched roofs. Prices from £505,000. Call 01634 891200.

Victory Pier, a mixed development in Gillingham, is being built alongside the town’s walled harbour with smart apartment blocks, shops, bars and cafés, a hotel and moorings. Prices from £255,000. Call 01634 776773.


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