A railway station with fast links to London and the start of a multi-billion-pound regeneration scheme are finally helping turn the Kent town of into a commuter hot spot.
Network Rail wants to build a new £26 million station in the town, where Charles Dickens set many of his novels, aiming to open in 2015.
This will mean a faster and more reliable service to the capital and will cater for an expected increase in the number of passengers using the services as regeneration of Rochester attracts thousands of new residents. Rochester to London should take 39 minutes.
The redevelopment of Rochester Riverside is one of the largest schemes in the Thames Gateway. Delayed by the recession, the masterplan for the 74-acre site includes 2,000 new homes, plus cafés, bars, offices and shops, two hotels, a two-mile river walk, parks, and new links to the picturesque town centre.
Work has now started on the project, which includes a riverside walk, 73 new homes and a public square. A spokeswoman for Medway Council said a developer would be sought for the next phase during summer 2013.
At present Rochester is one of the more affordable towns in Kent. According to the Land Registry, average prices in the Medway district stand at £139,017, up almost four per cent in the last year.
David Lane, a partner at estate agents Machin Lane Partnership, believes the town’s history as a garrison town and dockyard had suppressed prices – in a market reliant on the wages of soldiers, sailors and dock workers, property values have not soared like those in more aspirational towns like Sevenoaks.
Lane hopes the Riverside scheme will change all this. “It will attract a lot of people in from outside, because the commute is so good,” he said. “Value of property will be pushed up.”
At present Rochester has two key assets for London exiles: it benefits from the Kent’s grammar schools system aqnd Rochester Grammar School is outstanding according to Ofsted.
Plus the journey to London is already impressively fast: trains to St Pancras International take from 39 minutes, and an annual season ticket costs £3,672.
Lane estimates that a modern three-bedroom townhouse with river views would cost around £210,000, while a two-bedroom Victorian cottage would cost around £120,000. At the very top end the magnificent Georgian and Queen Anne homes on Bowley Hill sell for between £1m and £2m.