After a decade in the shadow of the booming East End, the regeneration focus has shifted to west London postcodes. This part of the city may not have an Olympic legacy but it is welcoming major building projects and has an action plan backed by Mayor Boris Johnson to bring better transport and thousands of new homes and jobs.
Property experts tip cheaper western suburbs to rise in price more than other London districts in the next five years.
National Grid and developer St James unveiled one of the capital’s biggest new neighbourhoods last week — 3,750 homes to be built on a former gas works site bordering the Grand Union Canal and the railway in Ealing.
This classic “brownfield” site, a sprawling factory complex of 83 acres between Ealing and Southall, is going to be opened up into a new waterfront community with homes, shops and a network of public open space, plus a school. The scheme could take 25 years to complete.
Another project is Drayton Garden Village, 775 homes at a former Royal Air Force base, with architecture inspired by the Thirties “garden city” movement that delivered modern, well-connected homes in leafy surroundings.
Redundant factory sites are also getting a new lease of life. EMI’s historic headquarters in Hayes is being transformed into The Old Vinyl Factory, a new “quarter”, with 630 homes, fashion boutiques, work studios, bars and cafés, a cinema and a museum. Gatefold, the first phase of 132 apartments, is named after the album record sleeves and will be unveiled next year.
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Docklands of the west
At Turnham Green, a factory where parts for Spitfire planes were manufactured has been transformed into 400 homes plus offices and shops, while at Alperton, a B&Q superstore is making way for 441 homes, part of a plan to turn this unsung area into a residential haven, with a new school and shops, a health centre and business premises. Prices from £187,500. Call 020 8997 3373 for details.
Mega-plan: the BBC's relocation from Television Centre, above, in Wood Lane, W12 is paving the way for 4,500 new homes
Closer in, the BBC’s relocation from Wood Lane has paved the way for a mega-redevelopment of the site. Imperial College is building a new campus, part of the White City Opportunity Area, which includes a centre of excellence for medical and academic research plus post-graduate accommodation and key worker housing, while the masterplan envisages 4,500 new homes and a Canary Wharf- type office complex on 43 acres of land surrounding listed Television Centre. Nearby Westfield wants to build 1,500 homes on land next to its shopping mall, while Berkeley Group has snapped up a Marks & Spencer storage warehouse on a 10-acre plot for a giant residential scheme.
Traditionally, the Hammersmith to Heathrow M4 corridor has been a key commercial zone, popular with global corporations such as GlaxoSmithKline at Brentford. Over the years, airport expansion has boosted the growth of satellite towns including Hounslow, Hayes, Slough, Southall and Staines but they lack sparkle as places to live.
Regeneration aims to revitalise them into lively residential and commercial centres. The Greater London Authority is releasing public land to private developers with the objective of giving this transport-rich territory a new identity, as recognisable as Docklands is in the east. The Ealing gas works ceased production in the Seventies and the site became a car park. As well as bringing much-needed housing, a primary school and offices for small and medium-size enterprises, development there will integrate with a new Southall Crossrail station.
“London has a great history of building on this scale, like Hampstead Garden Suburb more than a century ago,” says Sean Ellis of developer St James.
Crossrail is the main catalyst for change, according to property consultant CBRE whose analysis shows that western suburbs will be the biggest winners when the new route opens in 2018. Journey times to the centre will be slashed, boosting the value of property around the new stations, with the largest gains along the Southall to Acton section.
Ealing will reign
Ealing, in particular, will be a hotspot, with the typical property — currently £617,730 — getting a £100,000 Crossrail bonus. “Crossrail will reduce travel times to central London by 32 minutes, which will have an immediate and significant impact on the area’s appeal to commuters,” says Jennet Siebrits, head of research at CBRE.
A town centre makeover is under way. Developers believe fashionable apartment living, of the sort that exists in Fulham and Putney, will draw urbanites who previously steered clear of the self-proclaimed “Queen of Suburbs”.
From £1.25 million: the Dickens Apartments, latest phase of Ealing's Dickens Yard development. Call 020 8568 1100
Dickens Yard has 698 flats set around new public squares and pedestrianised lanes which are being brought to life with shops, restaurants, markets and street theatre. The scheme dovetails with surrounding heritage buildings, including Ealing’s Gothic-style town hall, a Victorian church and a fine Thirties fire station. Prices from £1.1 million. Call developer St George on 020 8568 1100.
Apex is another town centre project. At this 20-storey tower with 127 flats, prices start from £865,000 for a three-bedroom duplex. Call Galliard on 020 7620 1500.
High-speed future and a mini city
On the horizon, of course, is High Speed 2, providing a fast rail link from Heathrow to Birmingham and beyond. The GLA is consulting on a transport superhub for Crossrail and HS2 at Old Oak Common, just north of Wormwood Scrubs.
Much of the land is owned by public sector bodies, and is disused. Architect Sir Terry Farrell has revealed a “mini city” masterplan for 10,000 new homes and 20 million square feet of office and commercial space.
If it goes ahead, the project will have a massive impact on Chiswick and Acton. The former is a gentrified inner suburb with tree-lined avenues and a riverside mall, while the latter is a sprawling urban mishmash, carved up by train tracks and busy roads.
Beggars can’t be choosers, which is why Acton is packed with young renters, while Chiswick attracts well-heeled family buyers in search of good schools and safe streets.
One sought-after Acton pocket is Poets Corner, full of neat terraces that are popular with BBC workers. Napier Square is a new scheme of 24 contemporary-design townhouses. Prices from £950,000. Call Berkeley Homes on 020 8811 2336.
From £187,000: The Green in Hounslow, 42 apartments handy for Heathrow in low-rise blocks
grouped around a traditional-style green. Call 01628 407340
Hounslow is more a suburb of Heathrow than London, inextricably linked to the airport which continues to boost local employment and housing demand. The Green is a scheme of 42 apartments in low-rise blocks grouped around a traditional-style green. Prices from £187,000. Call United House on 01628 407340.
Poet Sir John Betjeman may have wanted to see Slough bombed but Crossrail is set to make it a target for home buyers.
Heart of Slough is an ambitious £450 million project to create a new cultural and leisure quarter alongside 500 new homes — improvements that CBRE believes could “morph Slough into a serious commuter zone”.