South London goes on the rails

Buy a home in south London now. Once the new East London line Tube link arrives, property prices will soar
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Residents of Tube-starved south London have reason to celebrate to the tune of £79 million. Soon they will have not one but two new Tube-style lines up and running - before the 2012 Olympics.

Already under way is the East London line extension from New Cross to Crystal Palace and Croydon. Unexpectedly, Mayor Boris Johnson and transport secretary Geoff Hoon have given approval for spending the extra millions needed to complete a second-state upgrade of the southern part of the extension, which had been put on ice by Transport for London on the grounds of cost.

Now, a spur will shoot off at Surrey Quays and go to Clapham Junction via Denmark Hill and Wandsworth Road. This will plug Peckham, Camberwell and Dulwich into the Tube network for the first time and provide direct links to the City and Docklands.

The line will run on souped-up overland track now used for commuter trains. A new station will be built at Surrey Canal Road in Peckham as part of an area regeneration scheme. Other stations, including Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye, will be modernised.

Good-value SE postcodes

These good-value inner SE postcodes will no longer be isolated from central London. Currently, the entire East London line is closed while extension works take place. The main section will re-open in 2010, which means that homebuyers have a prolonged window of opportunity to search out a property in an area that is cheaper than any places along the present London Tube network (as measured by the current price of homes within half a mile of an existing Tube station).

Georgian-style town houses in this new terrace being built alongside red-brick Mary Datchelor School
From £999,950: Georgian-style town houses in this new terrace being built alongside red-brick Mary Datchelor School. Call 020 7708 5829
Ironically, the only Underground line that currently travels deep into south London is called the Northern line. Previous Tube improvements, such as the Victoria line and Jubilee line, boosted underlying property values along their routes by more than 10 per cent.

All the areas along the Surrey Quays to Clapham route are in transport zone two and therefore relatively close to the West End and Square Mile, London's main employment hubs. Yet property values in south-east London have trailed those in north and west London partly because of the absence of Tube connections.

The best addresses

Georgian Camberwell, less than three miles from Charing Cross, may get the biggest boost. This district has some stunning homes and pretty conservation areas, and developers are regenerating run-down sites and impressive listed Victorian school buildings.

Perhaps the best patch is around leafy Camberwell Grove and Grove Lane. Both roads rise steeply to Denmark Hill station and the Dulwich border.

Flats in the converted school buildings at two-acre listed Mary Datchelor School
£249,950: flats in the converted school buildings at two-acre listed Mary Datchelor School. Call 020 7708 5829
"The neighbourhood is popular with arty and media types and doctors employed at King's College Hospital on Denmark Hill," says Simon Goh of local estate agent Haart. "Substantial four-storey period houses cost about £1 million, which is much cheaper than comparable properties in, say, Islington. More modest family houses can be picked up for half this price."

Houses and flats to rent in Camberwell
Houses and flats for sale in Camberwell

Comedian and writer Jenny Eclair is a local resident. She used to live contentedly "in a gracious Georgian house in a slightly dodgy part of Camberwell", but moved to an "ugly" Fifties house near Denmark Hill that she and her art director husband have remodelled into a modern, redwood-clad building with an open plan interior.

Eclair wrote about the experience in her acerbic novel Camberwell Beauty and she sums up the area succinctly. "Camberwell is like living with a difficult child: you glow over its small achievements but can't wait for it to grow up. You don't come to Camberwell for the quality of its shopping. I do leap to defend it. Some people think it's beyond Croydon and are staggered when I tell them I can be in the West End in 20 minutes."

Coming soon: a bustling new zone

Camberwell's main commercial patch between the Green and King's College Hospital is a bit edgy. Improving is the frontier with Peckham, especially along tree-lined Peckham Road. There you find Southwark town hall and other good municipal buildings plus Camberwell College of Art - a welcome bohemian presence - and a piano factory turned into lofts.

Barratt’s landmark canalside Maple Quays apartments at Canada Quays
£231,995: flats at Barratt’s landmark canalside Maple Quays apartments at Canada Quays. Call 0845 871 0045
Close to Queens Road station, another of the stations on the new route, are two small developments (31 flats in each) being built by Telford Homes. Budget-priced flats will be released later this year. Call 0870 872 0987.

An East London line station at Surrey Quays will consolidate Rotherhithe's location as a convenient halfway point between Canary Wharf and the West End. The area is already served by the Jubilee line station at Canada Water and is undergoing a second wave of regeneration.

Houses and flats to rent in Rotherhithe
Houses and flats for sale in Rotherhithe

A shopping and leisure precinct built in the Eighties is the main commercial hub but lacks what today's urban planners call "a sense of place". Under way right next door is the 40-acre Canada Quays project, which Southwark council is promoting as a "bustling new zone".

Eventually it will have more than 2,000 new homes, a showpiece library, offices, shops, bars and restaurants. Barratt has long-term plans to build 900 of these homes, and despite the economic backdrop, the developer has lost no time in launching the first phase of 41 apartments, called Maple Quays. This contemporary building overlooks a narrow canal, a legacy from the old docks era. Apartments cost from £231,995. Completion is due in about a year's time. Call 0845 871 0045.

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