On a bright winter morning the sail boats and pleasure yachts moored at Gillingham Marina bob up and down on the tides.
This soothing scene is made all the more peaceful by its juxtaposition with a frenzy of activity ashore, where the finishing touches are being put to the latest phase of the Victory Pier scheme.
This will bring 800 new flats and more than 1,000 student bedsits, served by shops, bars and restaurants, to a 20-acre site overlooking the estuary of the River Medway in Kent.
Waterside living usually costs top-dollar but Hyde New Homes is building 43 affordable flats, starting at just over £33,000. They will launch on December 1 and be ready in early spring (for details visit www.hydenewhomes.co.uk).
The homes, in the five-storey South Shore block, are set back from the water, so their owners, though seconds away, will not enjoy a direct river view. But the properties are smartly designed with high-gloss kitchens, with appliances thrown in. A few have parking, and some have balconies.
Prices start from around £33,250 for a 35 per cent share of a one-bedroom apartment (full market value £95,000).
Two-bedroom apartments start from around £49,875 for a 35 per cent share (full price: £142,500).
It is about 10 minutes' walk from the train station, with swift links to London thanks to the high-speed rail link (49 minutes to King's Cross/annual season ticket £4,160).
"We expect it to appeal to young professional couples," said Hyde's Jane Warren. "We have sold developments in Dartford and Bromley and they have been popular with commuters. I suppose London prices are making people start to look slightly further afield."
Victory Pier is being built by Berkeley First, sister to Berkeley Homes, which specialises in schemes where private and affordable homes are mixed with student accommodation.
Matthew Biddle, managing director of Berkeley First, hopes the site will be complete in five to six years, so those who get in on the ground floor will have to accept building disruption for a few years. This has not deterred buyers so far. The first, private, phase of the scheme, launched in June, is already more than 90 per cent sold out at prices ranging from £109,950 for a studio to £174,950 for a two-bedroom flat (www.victorypier.co.uk).
Victory Pier is a young person's development, with hundreds of students giving it a campus feel. "The majority of the purchasers have been young professionals, both local and working in London," said Biddle. "We have also sold some to parents buying for their student children."
Gillingham itself has some useful facilities, though fine dining and cool bars are in somewhat short supply. But Bluewater is just 20 minutes away to supplement the town's Pentagon shopping centre and there is also a twice-weekly market.
There is plenty of green space, the highlight being the 114-hectare Capstone Farm Country Park on the North Downs. And summer sports fans have the Strand Leisure Park with its outdoor pool. For winter there is the Chatham Ski and Snowboard centre or ice skating at the Ice Bowl, as well as Medway Park sports centre.
Trinity Village, Bromley Common, Surrey
Smart Regency-style apartments (left) at Bromley Common for sale under the Government’s FirstBuy scheme.
Prices start at £182,995 for a one-bedroom flat and – under the scheme aimed at buyers earning less than £60,000 – you need only a £7,400 deposit. Bromley Common is 16 minutes by train from Victoria.
For information visit www.barratthomes.co.uk
Papermill Walk, Ingress Park, Kent
Coach houses, flats, and two- and three-bedroom houses (right) are being sold under the HomeBuy Direct scheme at this development in Greenhithe.
First-time buyers pay 70 per cent of the market price (and repay their “debt” when they sell).
Buy a one-bedroom coach house (full price £174,500) for £122,150. Trains to Waterloo from Greenhithe take 43 minutes.
The Hamptons, Worcester Park, Surrey
Fans of New England-style architecture love this block (left) by Thames Valley Housing, with affordable homes available to first-time buyers who live or work in Sutton, Lambeth, Richmond, Kingston, Merton, Croydon or Wandsworth.
Prices start from £86,625 for a 35 per cent share in a two-bedroom apartment priced at £247,500. Waterloo is 30 minutes away.
For information visit www.tvha-thehamptons.co.uk