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Go West?

 Property in the west of uk

Why electrification of the Great Western Railway may mean this is a great time for house buyers to go west; why living in an area which has adopted neighbourhood plans results in more planning applications plus many more news items in our round up of this week’s property press.

Celebrity Watch

Guy Richie

Film maker Guy Richie has big plans to expand his hunting estate near Salisbury. Richie who bought the estate with ex-wife Madonna in 2001 is now, with his current wife Jacqui Ainsley, adding nine bedrooms and has submitted plans to Wiltshire council for further bedrooms plus a library, cinema, swimming pool and spa treatment room.

Photo opportunity

The chance is now available to rent the stunning loft style apartment recently vacated by snapper to the stars David Bailey in Kings Cross London. The open plan flat which has two bedrooms and 2,837 square feet of floor space is available for £2,000 per week.

£5.25m for a slice of movie history

A Grade II-listed four-bedroom house in Holland Park which was the home of Richard E Grant in the 1995 film Jack & Sarah (also starring Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen) is up for sale at £5.75million. The house with views over a communal garden and St James’s Church, is full of character and has been in the same family for 58 years.

Game of Thrones

A four bedroom house with a large private roof terrace is for sale for £3.5million in cobbled Daleham Mews, Belsize Park previously home to former Bond villain and Game of Thrones star Sean Bean.

Properties in the west

Go West?

At some time soonish longer and faster electric trains will be operating from London Paddington to the West Country cutting journey times by 20-30 minutes down to 79 minutes to Bristol Temple Meads and 60 minutes to Bath. Even better there should be seats for all and it will no longer be necessary to manually open and shut the door like currently happens on the old-fashioned, diesel trains that currently service the line.

Although an annual season ticket will set you back around £10,000 the good news is that you won’t need to pay London prices! Indeed, buyers are already coming from London, attracted by the prospect of faster links according to local agents in Bath who advise that around 40% of current buyers have London postcodes.

The bad news is that no one knows when the new electric trains will start running. The year 2017 is spoken about but with more hope than certainty but Railtrack have teams working through the night setting up the infrastructure which Great Western Railway describes as “the biggest investment since Brunel built the railway 150 years ago”.

Once the power is turned on it seems certain to significantly stimulate the West Country economy and property market with house prices soaring upwards.

Apart from the obvious areas around Bath, Chippenham and Bristol property experts expect a knock on effect of the new trains further afield with railway towns such as Tuanton, Exeter and Newton Abbot particularly favoured.

With the average price of a semi-detached home currently around £210,000 in Bristol and £275,000 in Bath, as against £475,000 to £500,000 in London the time to buy might be sooner rather than later.  Hanging on for the rail electrification process to finally complete might be just a little bit too late.

More plans in neighbourhood areas

Government figures show that plans for housebuilding are over 10% higher in areas where neighbourhood plans have been adopted compared to areas which operate only under the council’s own local plan.

Introduced in 2011, neighbourhood plans allow residents to put a plan in place to influence development in their area, subject to a local referendum. Once approved, the council is bound to consider them as part of the planning process. So far around 100 areas have voted yes in neighbourhood planning referendums whilst none have been rejected.

Minister for housing and planning Brandon Lewis said: “More than eight million people now live in areas that have had or will have their say on planning in their neighbourhood, and more areas are coming forward every day.

“We are scrapping the broken old planning system that pitted neighbours and developers against each other, and cornered people into opposing any development in their back yard. The 100 neighbourhood planning referendums show how our approach of getting the whole community working together is paying off, and breaking through local opposition.”

Earlier this year the government announced that groups would be able to apply for grants of up to £8,000 to help them write local plans, while areas facing more complex issues may be eligible for up to £14,000.

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Grand Designs: House of the Year searches for the UK’s top home

Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud hosts a special four-part series of Channel 4 TV programme Grand Designs over the next four weeks exploring the projects in the running for this year’s Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) House of the Year award.

McCloud will visit some of the UK’s most spectacular homes and creative conversions during the search for the winner, revealing how they were built and why they are rated the best of new British architecture. Highlights include a flint-clad house resembling an Aztec temple, a home built from four shipping containers and a house overlooking the South Downs with red cedar cladding and a folded roof.

Each week, the shortlisted buildings will be revealed, with the winner announced during the final programme on November 25.

Estate Agent Profit Warning Sparks fears of house market slowdown

Britain’s biggest estate agent, Countrywide issued a profit warning this week sending its shares plummeting and raising fears that the housing market may be heading for a serious down turn.

The estate agent reported that house sales were down by 8% in the third quarter and is expects overall volumes to be 5% down by the year end at 950,000 sales for the year. The expected bounce back following the May general election “just hasn’t happened” according to a spokesperson for the company who added “this is the first time since 1983 that it hasn’t happened.”

Lack of available houses and an absence of wage inflation is blamed for the stagnation but Howard Archer of HIS Global Insight claimed to be relatively upbeat about the prospects for the housing market provided that consumer confidence improves and mortgage rates remain at their very low levels.

Cutting Social Rents could worsen housing shortage government warned

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned the government that Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to reduce social rents by 1% for four years could reduce the amount of new housing supply by as much as 14,000 social sector properties between now and 2021.


Major Housing Associations to Merge

Two major housing associations in the south have announced plans to merge their organisations subject to full board approval within the next three months.

The associations concerned are Genesis and Thames Valley, both of which were formed over 50 years ago. The merged organisation will initially have c 47,000 homes between them and has announced plans to build a further 3,000 new homes each year going forward.

Neil Hadden, chief executive of Genesis Housing Association, said: “The environment in which housing associations operate has changed very substantially. Associations must be agile, innovative and resilient. We still want to be building homes and creating thriving communities to support our customers in another 50 years – we believe that this proposed merger of two organisations with similar values and similar approaches will create a firm foundation for the future.”

Geeta Nanda, chief executive of Thames Valley Housing Association, said: “This positive proposal will create a dynamic organisation that will deliver thousands of new homes. We have a huge housing crisis and we need new and bold solutions to deal with it. Of the 3,000 homes we intend to build as a merged organisation, 1,800 will be affordable homes.”

Deals of the Week

Newcastle upon Tyne

Planning permission has been granted to McAleer & Rushe for a £100m mixed-use scheme on the site of a former shopping centre in the centre of Newcastle which will include a 269-bedroom hotel, 20,000 sq ft of commercial space and a 575-bedroom student housing element which will be operated by Unite Students

Work is hoped to start on site in 2016 with delivery of the student accommodation scheduled for summer 2018. But the developer admits that this is a very challenging project with numerous construction complexities across the 0.7 hectare site to be overcome.


Inspired Asset Management has completed the purchase of a 16-storey, 123,265 sq ft office building in central Croydon for £25m with a view to conversion into 227 flats and skyline penthouses. The plans were submitted under permitted development rights which were extended by the government last month and Inspired’s chief executive Martin Skinner said: “Impact House is not only a landmark deal for us as it’s our largest development to date, but it marks the next stage in investor confidence in the London office-to-residential market.”


Iesis Group has sold to Empiric Student Property the freeholds of three student accommodation properties in Bath, comprising a total of 107 beds, for £9.2m.

The three properties are Canal Bridge with 20 beds Widcombe Wharf with 40 ensuite beds across five eight bed flats and Piccadilly Place which comprises two separate three storey buildings with 47 beds.

Paul Hadaway, chief executive of Empiric Student Property, said: “The acquisition of this portfolio is the group’s third investment in Bath and on completion of Empiric’s two assets currently under development will result in Empiric owning a total of 354 operating beds in this attractive student city at the start of the 2016/17 academic year.”

property in newcastle

Double Up!!

Based on a survey undertaken by Town and Country Planning Association current housebuilding levels in the UK are around one half of the minimum of 220,000 homes a year needed between now and 2031 to keep up with household growth projections.

The natural consequence of this is further upward pressure on prices and rents unless supply dramatically increases.

Even if the target number of houses are delivered, the research suggests that couples aged between 25 and 34 will be less able to live in their own home than their counterparts in 2011.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of Town and Country Planning Association said: “Many people now can’t afford their own home – either to rent or buy – and are living with parents or other people longer than they would like to. The government needs to see this as a wakeup call. It has already fallen behind on their targets for house building, and this is now having a devastating effect on young people. More needs to be done to build the necessary number of high quality, affordable homes for people who need them.”

Buyers Queue All Night for Starter Homes

At 9am on Wednesday Grazyna Morawska a mother in her sixties who’d flown from Poland was first in a queue of ultimately hundreds of people prepared to wait in the rain in Hounslow, west London, for up to 32 hours in the hope of buying one the 228 starter homes  being released for sale at 5pm the following day. Ms Morawska was securing a flat for each for her two children who are coming to London to study next year, and who subsequently joined her in the queue on Thursday morning.   Over 2,000 people had registered their interest in the 228 apartments which are designed specifically for first-timer buyers with prices ranging upwards of £199,000 for studio flats and from £310,000 for one-bedroom apartments.  All of the properties were sold on a first-come first-served basis with deposits starting from as little as £1,000.

Alternative Approach to first time buying

In north London first time buyers are being offered an alternative approach to getting on the property ladder.

A new development at City Wharf on the canal side near Angel tube station is giving first-time buyers the chance of buying a share of the ownership of 28 one or two bedroom homes in a Zone 1 location for under £140,000. A 25% share is available from £138,750 for a in a one-bedroom flat or from £198,750 for a two-bedroom home.


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