The historic Kent town of Rochester is enjoying a mini boom, underlined by the recent unveiling of a stunning £26 million railway terminal to replace the old station that first opened for business in 1892.
Trains from the new station will take commuters to London in just 35 minutes for an annual cost of £3,876. The station is a key part of major regeneration and expansion plans for the town made famous by Charles Dickens, who lived nearby and set many of his famous novels there.
The Rochester Riverside development, which will create 1,500 new homes, remains in its early stages, but this cathedral town, which sits at the point where the North Downs (almost) meet the Kent Downs, is already a great option for commuters and buyers are evidently cottoning on to its charms. According to research by Savills, Rochester has enjoyed price growth of 12.1 per cent since 2007, taking its average property values to £202,961.
The skyline of Rochester is dominated by the castle and the ancient cathedral. The town has its share of tea shops — Mrs Tickit’s Pantry being a local institution — and gastropubs such as The White House, plus the smart Oliver’s Bar and Restaurant. Saturday nights can get a bit rowdy, but the high street is pleasantly free of chain stores. Instead, it is possible to browse through boutiques, antique shops and art galleries, and the monthly flea market is a great place for both vintage finds and local crafts.
Kent’s educational standards are rightly admired nationwide. Rochester Grammar School for girls (it admits boys into the sixth form) is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, as is the boys’ grammar Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School. The brilliantly named The Hundred of Hoo Academy is rated “good”.
It’s a 30-mile drive or a 45-minute train ride from Rochester to Whitstable, so seaside day trips are a breeze.
Claire Carter, a senior partner at Freeman Forman, says buyers tend to fall for Rochester’s pretty old town where a two- to three-bedroom cottage will cost about £400,000. Living close to the High Street, castle and cathedral does carry a premium.
Alternatively, live a few minutes’ walk further out of town and pick up a three-bedroom Victorian terrace for £250,000 to £300,000 or a modern four-bedroom detached property for £250,000. A modern apartment overlooking the River Medway will cost about £180,000.
Given Rochester’s fast commute, some buyers opt to live in the surrounding villages. Top choice is attractive Upnor, on the banks of the Medway, with a fishing village vibe and its own primary school, shop and two pubs.
A three-bedroom flint cottage in the centre of Upnor will cost £300,000 to £350,000. Occasionally, large family houses come on to the market priced near the £1 million mark.
Rochester Riverside, a 52-acre regeneration zone, will give the town a boost, with new homes, shops, restaurants, and a school. Only a handful of homes have been built, making this site more of a watching brief for buyers.
Medway council is expected to announce a development partner in March. The plan is to transform this brownfield site into a new waterfront village by 2030.