The appalling state of our railways, with more fare hikes coming in January and continuing industrial action on Southern services, is reason enough to give up the daily commute to the capital and buy a home close to the office. Indeed, it could be your wisest new year’s resolution.
More Londoners than ever are choosing to live within reasonable walking distance of their workplace — the payoff being a better quality of life, savings on travel costs, increased leisure time, more flexible working and a chance to get fit.
Start your search just outside the congestion charge boundary, where it is still possible to find good-value pockets of the inner city, some very much on the up. Whitechapel, Haggerston, Holloway, Mile End, Rotherhithe and Peckham fall into this catchment.
There’s been a marked social shift since the heyday of the suburbs when the breadwinner of the Fifties took the train to the City and got back home for 6pm. London’s longer working hours culture has coincided with new attractive infrastructure that encourages city-centre living, and the emergence of new business districts beyond the traditional employment centres of the West End and the City.
MILE END MAKEOVER
Between the City and Canary Wharf, St Clements is Mile End’s biggest new development, a Victorian asylum turned into a walled estate of 252 homes in refurbished and new buildings. Prices from £485,000. Call 020 8712 2425.
From Merchants Walk in Bow it takes 20 minutes to walk along the Limehouse Cut towpath to Canary Wharf. Flats at this award-winning Peabody development cost from £375,000. Call 020 3369 8670.
Canary Wharf, already a global financial centre, is set to become an offshoot of Whitehall in east London, as next year 5,700 civil servants will move over to the east, with more due to follow.
Shoreditch is Europe’s leading tech and digital district, while King’s Cross, Paddington, Victoria and London Bridge are now fast-growing commercial zones rather than just arrival and departure points. Holborn has become “Legal Land”, Clerkenwell is the largest designer/media, creative centre in Europe, and further creative clusters have grown up in Camden, Southwark and Shepherd’s Bush.
Boosted by Apple’s decision to open a campus at Battersea Power Station more than 25,000 people will live and work in Nine Elms riverside and more businesses will follow into this purpose-built new neighbourhood with shops, cultural and leisure venues, bars and restaurants. Such place-making, the fashionable jargon, aims to turn these previously disconnected areas into attractive communities with good investment prospects.
A CANNY BUY IN KENNINGTON
Art curator Sarah Jenkins, 39, had been renting in north London and wanted to live in Hampstead but found it too expensive, so widened her search.
“I was struck by how central the riverside districts on the south side of the Thames are. I work in Victoria so Kennington was a no-brainer and it made sense to buy because the mortgage costs are roughly the same as renting. My flat cost £450,000 and it takes me about 25 minutes to get to work.”
THE WONDERS OF WALWORTH
It’s right on the cusp of Zone 1, barely two miles from Trafalgar Square and the Bank of England. It has been an unloved district, even among estate agents, with its unlovely council estates. But perceptions of Walworth are changing as streets smarten up on the back of sweeping regeneration at nearby Elephant & Castle.
BaSE17, so-called because of the area postcode, is a new scheme of 140 flats overlooking a small park. Prices from £530,000. Call 020 3486 2250. Nearby Harvard Gardens has 147 new flats and houses. From £420,000. Call 0333 0033640. Under way is a 270-home redevelopment of a council depot and listed public baths at Manor Place.
Keybridge is being built on the site of a bulldozed BT telephone exchange and comprises four buildings with 441 homes plus an acre of open space, a public square and gardens. From £575,000. Call 020 3432 6554.
MORE OF A STROLL
Walk along Ironmonger Row, just north of Barbican, to the canal basin at City Road and you will discover the ancient parish of St Luke’s, with the eponymous 18th-century Hawksmoor church, now a recording studio for London Symphony Orchestra, at its centre. Fuelled by the rise of Old Street’s “Tech City”, regeneration is now spilling over into a bordering canalside neighbourhood bounded by Essex Road and New North Road.
Architects, designers and digital start-ups are settling into the quiet backstreets. Hoxton Press, formerly a printworks site, has 198 flats in two hexagonal-shaped towers.
Anthology, the developer, is giving added value by offering bigger-than-average flats with floor-to-ceiling glazing and sheltered terraces for year-round use. Completion is in spring 2018. Prices from £500,000. Call 020 3308 9813.
Nearby City Wharf alongside Wenlock Basin has 327 flats priced from £825,000. Call 020 3858 2537.
NO SWEAT: LIVE-WORK
WeWork, known for its hip co-working spaces, has unveiled a new concept called WeLive — flats above offices. The buildings will operate like a private club, with member benefits and social events, fitness classes, communal dinners, cleaning and laundry, co-ordinated through a mobile app.
Atlas near Old Street is a new 40-storey skyscraper with 302 flats across a piazza from its commercial building - Provost & East - which has 80,000sq ft of offices. Call 020 7205 4570.
And Peabody has unveiled 580-home Fish Island Village in Stratford, with on-site “incubator” studios for design and digital start-ups, freelancers and early stage entrepreneurs.
Homes are being built above and alongside the workspaces and there will be a theatre, bar, café and a “fabrication workshop”, for 3D printing, for example.
BIGGER BUDGETS: OVAL
Despite its world-famous cricket ground, Oval has struggled to create an identity beyond its sporting heritage, but this no-frills area has handsome mansion blocks, lofts, a collection of neo-Georgian cottages built just before the First World War, and Bonnington Square, with its residents-run pleasure garden and café.
Meadow Mews is an architectural antidote to the shiny skyscrapers at nearby Nine Elms. In a Victorian conservation area, eight houses have been resourcefully squeezed on to a triangular plot bordering a high convent wall, making for a tranquil retreat.
The homes range up to 1,744sq ft and have double-height spaces, sheltered courtyard gardens, a garage or allocated parking. From £825,000 to £1,525,000. Call estate agent Daniel Cobb on 020 7222 1000.