This all sounds like déjà vu but in 1819 London was suffering from a dire shortage of water. The solution dreamed up by the authorities was to dam the River Brent, in north London, and create a reservoir with enough water to fill three million bathtubs.
It took a further 15 years to get the plan approved and built but today the Welsh Harp Reservoir, now surrounded by mature parkland, is not only a continuing source of water for London but home to several top-notch sailing and windsurfing clubs. Before long it will also become home to about 2,000 households, as Barratt Homes works on a scheme occupying a 30-acre site that sits alongside the water.
The first residents will move in to Hendon Waterside in September. Pricing is competitive. Studio flats are available at £159,950, one-bedroom properties from £189,000 and two-bedroom flats at £290,000. And buyers can use the Government's NewBuy scheme, which means they can beat the deposit trap with a 95 per cent loan.
Hendon Waterside is an almost unique opportunity to enjoy lakeside living in central(ish) London. The site is around six miles from Marble Arch and served by Hendon Station, 10 minutes' walk away, with Thameslink services to St Pancras in 16 minutes.
"The views are amazing and it is affordable," said Gary Patrick, sales director for Barratt London. "It is well-connected by road and you are very close to Brent Cross shopping centre and only a couple of miles from Hampstead."
The downsides are that those roads are awfully busy at rush hour, there will be building work on the site for many, many years (Barratt has no time-frame for completion) and West Hendon is — to put it generously — rather drab, with a grievous lack of shops, bars and restaurants.
Patrick, however, is taking the Field of Dreams view that if Barratt builds it people will come. "These sorts of facilities will follow the housing," he said. "This is a regeneration and that is what people are buying into."
If you want a more established location in London, another Barratt project, also available under NewBuy, is Osiers in Wandsworth, being built at the junction of the River Thames and its Bell Lane Creek at the mouth of the river Wandle.
The centrepiece of the scheme, designed by the award-winning architect John Assail, is a 21-storey tower. When it is completed in 2014 it will contain 275 flats, of which 186 are being sold privately (the rest will be sold on a shared ownership basis or rented, by the housing association A2 Dominion).
The excellent location close to Wandsworth Park and the great shops, bars and restaurants of both Wandsworth Town and Putney, mean this is a more expensive option. One-bedroom flats start at £305,000, and two-bedroom start at £450,000.
Transport links are good. Trains from Wandsworth Town to Waterloo take 15 minutes. Alternatively take the District Line from East Putney.
Because both of these schemes are eligible under NewBuy, which was launched by the Government in March, Patrick Law, Barratt's head of corporate affairs, hopes they will appeal to buyers currently priced out the market thanks to the hefty deposits being demanded by banks.
"At the end of the day it will give people choice," he said. "Previously, if you did not have up to a 20 per cent deposit, you were forced into rental."
The NewBuy scheme is available on properties priced up to £500,000 for first-time buyers and those hoping to move up the ladder. There is no upper income limit, although the banks will only grant mortgages up to a level they believe buyers can afford.
Buyers priced out?
The big downside is that while a smaller deposit requirement is welcome, the four banks so far participating in NewBuy are charging punitive interest rates of around six per cent (buyers with a 25 per cent deposit could get a deal at around 2.5 per cent). This means monthly costs will be high, sparking concern that the flagship policy is still pricing many buyers out.
Law says that, despite this, interest in the scheme has been high — nationwide Barratt is fielding some 1,400 enquiries each week. Whether those enquiries are morphing into sales is another matter.
It is early days for NewBuy. Law says: "Do we think it is a good scheme? Absolutely. It really targets a lot of people who have been locked out of the market because of the size of the deposit."
For information on both schemes visit barratthomes.co.uk. For information on NewBuy visit newbuy.org.uk.