New modern flats in up-and-coming Woolwich

Woolwich is an up-and-coming area of south-east London with thousands of new homes in development and a new Crossrail station coming in 2018. While the area is only starting to be regenerated, there's plenty of opportunities for first-time buyers.

Spotting an area on the up is not an exact science but there are some clues to watch for. Imminent transport improvements are a no-brainer, as is an influx of big-name house builders into a previously run-down district. A subtler, but no less important pointer is evidence of grass roots arts-led regeneration.

On the basis of these factors, Woolwich in south-east London has it all. The regeneration money is certainly there, in the form of the monster £750 million Woolwich Arsenal development which will eventually bring 3,700 new homes to the area courtesy of Berkeley Homes.

Transport improvements come in the form of a new Crossrail station which, when it opens in 2018, will offer direct services to Canary Wharf in eight minutes, to Bond Street in the West End in 21 minutes, and to Heathrow airport in 47 minutes.

For community-based arts regeneration look no further than the newly opened Woolwich Grand Theatre, bringing everything from film screenings to rollerdisco.

It is also an indication of the strength of the local community that the area has a clutch of schools judged "outstanding" by Ofsted, the government schools watchdog.

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From £71,750: for a 35 per cent of a one-bedroom flat at Woolwich Central

New homes at Woolwich Central
First-time buyers who would like to get in on the ground floor of Woolwich's embryonic reinvention — because it is, to be fair, still rough around the edges — can do so through supermarket giant Tesco. Its development arm, Spenhill, is behind the £86 million Woolwich Central scheme which includes 60 one- and two-bedroom flats on offer from housing association L&Q (lqgroup.org.uk) on a shared-ownership basis.

One-bedroom flats on the site start from £205,000. A 35 per cent share will therefore cost £71,750 and a monthly rent of £305.36 will also be charged. Two-bedroom flats start at £260,000, and buying a 35 per cent tranche will cost £91,000, plus a monthly rent of £387.29. Buyers must also factor in a monthly service charge of £173.32.

One of the plus points of Woolwich Central, affordability aside, is that this is a good-looking scheme featuring a series of modular, low-rise buildings linked by a network of courtyards, walkways and sky gardens, designed by leading architects Sheppard Robson. Some of the homes have either a balcony or a glazed-in winter garden.

The development is well-located near newly revamped General Gordon Square, complete with water cascade and outdoor screens, and the nearest station is Woolwich Arsenal in Zone 4, on the Docklands Light Railway.

Priority will be given to people living or working locally who earn, as a household, between £37,000 and £48,413. "Woolwich has changed so much over the last few years," said Mo Clarke, sales negotiator for L&Q. "It is like it has had a facelift. The town centre used to be just a bus terminal — now there is a lovely amphitheatre where they show tennis and football on big screens, and it is attracting new businesses, such as upmarket coffee shops. Ever since developers started pumping loads of money into the area it has been very up and coming."

  • Search for flats for sale at Woolwich Central

Since, predictably, there's a giant Tesco supermarket — the largest in Europe — already open on site, residents will not have far to carry their shopping, although for retail therapy of the more enjoyable kind, it might be better to head to the boutiques and cafés of nearby Greenwich and Blackheath, as Woolwich Market is fairly basic and the shops on Powis Street are uninspired.

And, apart from the Grand's café, there aren't many places to while away a pleasant hour over a cappuccino.

Crime levels in Woolwich
On a far more serious note, the death of Drummer Lee Rigby outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in May sent shockwaves through the area. And according to Metropolitan Police figures the crime rate in Woolwich Riverside, currently standing at 8.53 per 1,000 head of population, remains significantly higher than the Greenwich borough average of 6.47.

However, Ms Clarke believes the area is a safer place to live than people think. " I can remember when Brixton was an area that people felt was very dangerous and now they wouldn't think twice about living there," she says. "Woolwich is going through that same change. People who work in the City and Canary Wharf are coming to look here now."


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