North London has it all when it comes to housing choice: smart City-fringe neighbourhoods, leafy Georgian squares, fashionable canalside lofts, gentrified Victorian terraces, commanding high-ground suburbs, huge regeneration zones (notably at King’s Cross), award-winning key worker homes, modest mews developments and mansions for those with more money than taste in gaudy enclaves such as The Bishops Avenue.
The heartland — spreading from Highbury to Hampstead and from Canonbury to Camden — has for decades attracted Square Mile and West End high-fliers who find it more convenient than west London and also buzzier and more metropolitan.
Recently, these bankers, lawyers and middle-class radicals have been joined by a young creative crowd, most choosing to settle in Islington (the place not the borough) where new developments have been squeezed into every available corner.
Urban renewal is continuing, with several spectacular schemes opening up pockets of Islington closed off for a generation.
Take Charterhouse: The Square, a courtyard complex of 174 apartments in Clerkenwell launching today. Remarkably, the land was a First World War bomb site and is bounded by a small medical campus belonging to Bart’s Hospital and a medieval abbey. Prices from £395,000. Call Currell Residential on 020 7253 2533.
The Angel is the gateway to Islington. Tucked away behind the Tube station is a closed-off canal basin where a new waterfront estate of 900 flats, offices, restaurants and bars, business barges and pleasure moorings is under way.
During its Victorian heyday, the nine-acre basin was London’s major canal centre, serving countless wharves and factories.
'Penthouses at £1m are a tell-tale sign of an area's arrival'
Dereliction set in during the Seventies and later part of the basin was filled in to provide land for an electricity sub station, which blocked views and pedestrian routes and created an eyesore.
However, from November access will be opened up via a new entrance on City Road leading to a canalside park and plaza. This is the first phase of a five-year project.
Penthouses priced from £1 million at a canalside scheme called The Wenlock Building are a tell-tale sign of the area’s arrival as a smart quarter of City Road.
"They are penthouses in the truest sense: individual, glamorous with a top-notch specification and great views," says Robert Soning of developer Londonewcastle. Other flats are priced from £440,000. Call estate agent Chesterton on 020 7288 0330.
Angel Waterside is an eye-catching steel-and-glass apartment scheme. Two-bedroom flats with terraces and underground parking are priced from £499,950. Call Grove Manor Homes on 020 7359 5259.
British Waterways is part of the development consortium. The masterplan also includes two residential skyscrapers overlooking the canal basin.
Followers of “development drift” should check out the area between Angel and King’s Cross. Now that regeneration of blighted railway lands has started, niche schemes are sprouting up in formerly scruffy backstreets off roads such as busy Pentonville Road and Caledonian Road, and next to Barnsbury, a pretty early-19th century enclave of elegant garden squares, cottages and pubs clad in ivy.
Though already affluent, there are several in-fill developments around the edges of Barnsbury where cheaper homes are on offer.
For decades, Arundel Square, N7, had a “missing” fourth side — a vacant plot of land where a bus station once stood alongside handsome period town houses. Now, following an ambitious engineering project, a scheme of 115 modern flats is being built that dovetail nicely with the historic fabric of the neighbourhood.
Tube trains run below the central garden area, the main reason why planners had previously vetoed any development plan.
Developer Modern City Living, succeeded by building a new tunnel with a structural deck above. This has allowed the open green space of the square to be extended and a new five-storey block to be built. Flats will be released next year.
Since the Sixties architects and media companies have targeted Camden’s canalside buildings and cobbled mews. Development dried up in recent years but a fresh wave of regeneration is now looming.
Camden council has released a development brief for Hawley Wharf, an important site near Camden Lock that includes part of the market destroyed by a fire earlier this year. This area is destined to become a mix of flats and commercial buildings.
‘We were buying character’
“The lure of a newly refurbished two-bedroom apartment in a converted Edwardian college in vibrant west Hampstead was enough to persuade Tom Corbett and Caroline Gregory to move from Docklands.
In value terms there wasn’t much of a price difference but we’ve been able to buy into a development that has much more character than where we lived before. We love the high ceilings and big windows; also the area is well established so you get a sense of community,” says Tom, 24.
Called The Academy, there are 63 apartments in two new-build blocks and the original school building.
Prices start at £269,950. Call developer Crest Nicholson on 0870 755 0834.