Why move to Newbury
PUBLISHED: 17:52 17 September 2008 | UPDATED: 08:57 21 February 2013
It's a thriving market town that doesn't seem to be troubled too much by the slow-down in the housing sector, says Carol Evans...
Simon Downer is an estate agent with a good news story to tell. Within the first ten days of Great Furze Cottage, near Newbury, coming onto the market there were 22 viewings and four offers on the property. "So it is definitely possible, with correct marketing, to find good buyers in this market, particularly for good property," says Simon of Downer & Co.
He adds: "Even when the market was quiet in the early 90s, there were always people wanting to live here. I've never seen the market dead. Employment is good, it's geographically convenient, house prices are realistic, transport facilities are good - and it's getting better all the time."
An agricultural heartland whose historical prosperity once relied on cloth manufacture, Newbury's economic wealth now comes from high tech industries, including pharmaceutical giant Bayer and telecommunications behemoth Vodafone, the town's largest employer.
Economic growth has prompted a raft of development. Building work has already begun on a long-awaited cinema and a new complex, Park Place, to include more housing and town centre shops, is scheduled for completion next year.
The atmospheric Kennet and Avon canal that flows through the town's vibrant heart, further enhances Newbury's appeal, while it's surrounded by one of the most glorious of south-east England's designated areas of outstanding natural beauty: the North Wessex Downs. It is little wonder then, that people want to live in this very pleasant corner of West Berkshire.
As for housing, there is a wealth of styles, from period cottages, substantial Victorian family homes and Edwardian terraces, to modern detached and semi detached houses on small estates.
Over the last two or three years, a number of new town centre apartment blocks have sprung up and are being snapped up by young professionals and downsizers.
The latest, Benedict Court in Western Avenue from retirement builder McCarthy & Stone, will provide 54 one- and two-bed flats specifically for the over-60s.It's next door to Waitrose and is aimed at those who want a manageable and secure home without giving up their independence.
The company aims to start selling off-plan this month with the show home due for completion in December and first occupants taking up residence in February.
Says Nick van Zeller of Knight Frank: "House prices in Newbury are likely to be rather less than in some of the surrounding villages but all the facilities are within walking distance or five to ten minutes by car."
Out & About
Property prices: Expect to pay anything from £55,000 for a shared ownership studio apartment in the town centre to £1 million-plus for a substantial family home in the best areas. A small terraced house by the canal sells at around £180,000, while a four-bed detached property markets upwards of £400,000.
Best areas: Donnington, Speen Lane, Tydehams and Garden Close Lane are all highly desirable areas with a mixture of period and modern homes.
Ups: Nice, friendly community feel. The vast expanse of the AONB is a magnet to ramblers while the canal provides colour for towpath walkers and narrowboaters. Excellent transport links by rail or road (M4/A34) to London, South Coast, West Country and Cotswolds. "We're an hour away from everywhere," says Matthew Lodge of Savill's. Traffic congestion has practically disappeared since the controversial bypass was built.
Downs: We could find no 'downs, 'except a degree of traffic hum for those living close to major roads.
Amenities and Leisure: The town centre contains high street stores, specialist outlets, restaurants, street cafes and wine bars. There is a twice weekly market and a monthly farmers' market. The Corn Exchange offers amateur and touring professional entertainment while the Watermill Theatre at nearby Bagnor is nationally and internationally acclaimed. Newbury Racecourse is just outside the town and has its own station.
Schools: Newbury boasts a number of good primary and secondary schools in both state and private sectors. Comprehensive schools include St Batholomew's, founded in 1466 and one of Berkshire's oldest schools, and Park House. Private schools include St Gabriel's, Thorngrove, Downe House (in Thatcham) and Cheam.
What the locals say: Fraser Crumlish has lived in Newbury all his life and has no plans to leave. He says: "It's got a great community feel and there's plenty to do. You can really go out and have a good time. And it's improving all the time."