Our suburbs are benefiting from regeneration. They are also where today's best value is to be found, and where first-time buyers can afford to buy in revamped streets.
In some cases, the streets are so revitalised that a new homes launch can ruffle a few local feathers. That's what has happened in the south-east London suburb of Sidcup, where there have been objections to a "Las Vegas-style" development of 98 apartments.
Called The Fold, the jazzy scheme is clearly going for gold, with a curved façade clad in a copper alloy which gives the contemporary-looking building a distinctive golden sheen.
Designed by Olympic Park architects Studio Egret West, the building is moments from the train station and shines out like a beacon on the humdrum high street. Local planners wanted a "statement building", according to Antony Crovella of developer United House, and despite the objections of Bexley councillor June Slaughter, of Sidcup Ward, who described it as "utterly hideous, a blot on the landscape", the £20 million project got the go-ahead on appeal.
"The design has gone down well with most locals and more than 500 people have registered interest in buying," says Crovella. "It has struck a chord particularly with young London-bound commuters currently living in the parental home."
The development brings elements of fashionable inner-city apartment living. The bold design is seen as cool, while smart and spacious interiors are a grade above the usual local output.
A vast communal roof terrace provides panoramic views across the green belt and a glimpse of Canary Wharf, a restaurant, shops and offices will occupy the ground and lower floors, and there is secure underground parking. Prices start at £148,000. Show homes are open for viewing. Call 020 3040 8710.
Wishing for a Waitrose
One issue that has united locals is the "We Want a Waitrose" campaign, born after the supermarket abandoned plans for a town-centre branch. The store would have brought jobs as well as duck eggs — and boosted property values in a town overshadowed by more desirable neighbours such as Chislehurst and Bickley.
Sidcup is less than 12 miles from Charing Cross, making for quick commutes to central London. It was on the platform of Sidcup railway station in 1961 that students Mick Jagger and Keith Richards decided to form the Rolling Stones, so there is a bit of rock'n'roll spirit about the place, even if the tongue-in-cheek "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas"-style poster in The Fold marketing suite fails to convince.
Bringing on Bromley
Bromley town centre, the commercial heart of this swathe of outer London, is also being revitalised by a showpiece mixed development. Called Bromley South Central, it is being built on the site of a former car park and aspires to be a buzzing "live, work and play" quarter that integrates residential, leisure, shopping and the arts.
The £90 million scheme is set around a new square and will have 200 private and affordable apartments, a nine-screen multiplex cinema, a 130-bed hotel plus cafés and restaurants offering alfresco dining.
Architect Guy Hollaway says the goal is to create a genuinely vibrant new hub with high-quality design and public realm space. Two plazas, upper and lower, are linked by wide stairs inspired by Rome's famous Spanish Steps, where people will be able to sit and (hopefully) enjoy the sun. Suspended over the main piazza is a reflective halo, the same size as the Broadgate Circle ice rink, which will be a focus for events, exhibitions and performances. To register for one of the homes, call 020 7939 0800.
Cathedral Group, the developer, is also bringing its expertise to Grove Market, a run-down arcade in Eltham where 129 apartments, wrapped around restaurant and retail units, will be built, along with a new doctor's surgery.