Wembley's new Lycée Français school and designer shopping outlet

The opening of a new French school will up Wembley's property game
As the home of football, Wembley is accustomed to invasions of fans — upwards of 12 million a year pay it a visit. But this corner of north-west London is about to experience an influx of a more permanent kind thanks to the arrival of a new French school in 2015, which will be housed in the former Brent Town Hall.

Set up to address the huge over-subscription for places at the Lycée Français in South Kensington, the new school will cater for 1,000 pupils aged 11 to 18 years.

Design outlet in Wembley
The London Designer Outlet in Wembley will feature 85 shops and 15 restaurants and is set to target the "urban wealthy"

While the French ambassador to the UK, Bernard Emie, has been upbeat about the location of the new school, saying "the project is eagerly awaited by the French community", the reaction of French parents on blogs tells a different story, with many complaining about the feasibility of the school run if their other children are being schooled at the Lycée or the other main French school in the capital in Kentish Town.

And then, of course, there is the question of location: Wembley is not exactly a haven of international chic. It is characterised by suburban sprawl and banal shopping streets of predictable chains and fast-food outlets.

The area is also short of handsome period properties. There are two explanations for this — what is now Wembley was largely farmland until the turn of the century. Development didn't begin in earnest until the Twenties and Thirties — hence the predominance of houses from this era in the area.

The second reason is that Wembley, once a manufacturing base, was targeted by the Luftwaffe. More than 9,000 bombs fell on it during the Blitz, destroying much of its housing stock.

Searching for houses and flats in Wembley
Local historian Philip Grant points out that there are pockets of attractive Victorian and Edwardian housing, mainly on Harrow Road, the High Road and Ealing Road.

However, he adds: "French families looking for convenient and quality housing near to the new school may be inclined to seek out properties in the Barn Hill estate, which was built during the Twenties and Thirties, or The Paddocks, the road running beside the school, which got its name because it was built on fields that once belonged to a polo club."

In nearby Kingsbury, the Roe Green conservation area has cottages built for workers at a nearby aircraft factory.

The village feel of this street, built between 1916 and 1920, has made it highly sought-after, with properties that rarely go on the open market when they come up for sale.

One thing French people moving to the area won't be short of is green space, thanks to one of Wembley's best-kept secrets, the Fryent Country Park, which will be on the new French school's doorstep.

Covering 254 acres of wood and rolling hills, the park, with its ponds, wildlife and rare plants, is a wonderful place for children to let off steam.

The "French School Effect"
On another positive note, there is always the "French School Effect" on London district property markets. The French school in Kentish Town opened in 2011 and prices have risen in the area over the past two years by £24,244. Lawrence Hall, of property specialist Zoopla, says: "The average property value in NW5 is £571,344, that is £266,000 higher than in Wembley."

Kentish Town does have a much higher proportion of period property, which makes it a more attractive place for wealthy expats to live in any case, but Hall still thinks the new school — and the mooted establishment of two new free schools nearby — will have a beneficial effect. Wembley was already on the way up, he adds, and the new school can only help with that.

"The area is becoming more affluent — part of a broader trend where wealthier types are moving away from central London to Zones 2 and 3 to escape red-hot property prices."

The average Wembley home has risen in value by more than £7,000 in the past year. Urban regeneration is happening at a fast pace, and the school should encourage more affluent parents to gravitate to the area.

Design outlet in Wembley
500 new homes are set to be launched together with the London Designer Outlet
Designer brands are coming to Wembley in a new designer outlet, reports Laura Chesters
Developer Quintain has ambitious regeneration plans for Wembley. By the end of 2013 it hopes to have launched 500 new homes together with a cinema and a designer outlet centre with 85 shops and more than a dozen restaurants.

It hopes the London Designer Outlet will match Bicester Village, a busy designer outlet centre 50 miles away in Oxfordshire, by featuring top-rank brands such as Superdry, LK Bennett and Armani Exchange. The firm's head of retail, Phil Cottingham, says: "Wembley has a very diverse ethnic mix and more than 30 per cent of the people living less than 20 minutes away are aged 25 to 44."

Half of the adults living within 30 minutes' travelling distance earn more than £35,000 a year and are what Quintain calls part of the "urban wealthy".

Quintain is anxious that the local community does not feel that its new London Designer Outlet has been simply "helicoptered in". A member of its marketing team, Deborah Owen-Ellis Clark, explains: "We are working with local football clubs, dance clubs and community groups to create street theatre and projects to engage people and build up a sense the outlet belongs to them."

Brent council has built a "civic centre" in the middle of the regeneration zone to encourage local residents to feel involved. The bigger picture will see the building of 660 student flats and planning permission for 5,500 homes, with 520 already built. More than half are affordable homes for the local population.

The next lot of flats will be aimed at young professionals, either locals or people from elsewhere looking for well-priced homes with good transport links nearby.

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