Away from the busy commercial centre and bypass, Kingston benefits from two of the capital’s greatest assets - the river and the great, green open space of Richmond Park. Residents boast it is the perfect place for people who want to live in town and country.
Certainly its appeal is spreading: the area is set for fast population growth over the next eight years - one of the top 10 UK towns, according to the Office of National Statistics - and buyers across the price spectrum are looking for homes.
Royal Gallery is at the affordable end of the market. The scheme had stalled because of the credit crunch but is back on track after receiving a cash boost through the government’s “kickstart” programme.
A number of the 78 apartments are available under the HomeBuy Direct scheme, which enables first-time buyers to move in for 70 per cent of the price upfront. The remaining 30 per cent is provided jointly by the government and the developer, and is interest-free for the first five years. It can be repaid at any time or on resale. Prices range from £250,000 to £500,000. Call Crest Nicholson on 0870 751 3956.
Though Kingston lacks the villagey unity of its more affluent neighbours, Richmond and Wimbledon, the shape of the original medieval town can still be seen in the fine old market square and the warren of surrounding streets and passages.
New development has been relatively constrained. Charter Quay is a popular riverside scheme off the market square with a piazza featuring shops and restaurants, plus the new round-shaped Rose Theatre, modelled on the original Tudor theatre discovered in Southwark. The latter is one of several cultural attractions.
Coming soon is Kingston Riverside, a waterfront scheme by developer St James Urban Living. Montague Place on Albany Park Road has 36 flats priced from £235,000. Big double-fronted detached houses in the same street cost between £1.75 million and £2.25 million.
Kingston’s population is expected to get a 15 per cent boost - another 25,000 people - by 2018. Though a suburb, it is an important business hub. Before becoming a London borough in 1964, Kingston was in Surrey, and in a strange geographical quirk, Surrey County Council still has its headquarters there and is the town’s largest single employer.
High street shopping is another of Kingston’s strengths - with 3.5 million sq ft of retail space, it is the UK’s seventh biggest retail centre, with stores including John Lewis and Bentalls.
The area has a good selection of family homes in the affordable £400,000-£750,000 price bracket and has one of the capital’s lowest levels of social housing (under 12 per cent). It also boasts good schools (state and private), attractive conservation areas and a convenient train commute (30 minutes) to Waterloo.
Kingston is also being targeted by big-hitting property buyers searching for a better-value alternative to Richmond.
Coombe Park is a private-gated estate sandwiched between two golf courses. Celebrity Jimmy Tarbuck, former tennis star Annabel Croft and rock star Ronnie Wood have lived here in quiet splendour for years, unbothered by neighbours.
Many of the houses sit in big plots but are outdated and ripe for redevelopment. Some have been turned into Footballers’ Wives-type mansions. Prices start at about £1.25 million but can reach more than £5 million.