Why move to Reading
PUBLISHED: 13:21 02 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013
Recently hailed as a top town to come through the recession in the best shape, this is where you'll find both investment property and family homes
There's a lot more to Reading than "22 minutes to Paddington". Pay a visit, stay awhile and be pleasantly surprised, says Danusia Hutson.
Over the past 10 years, Reading has changed beyond recognition and just a few weeks ago was declared by a think tank to be the top town to come through the recession in best shape. Yes, it is excellent for commuting, by rail in all directions, with a multi-million pound regeneration programme for the station and the future Crossrail link still to come; it's close to Heathrow and to major motorways, and it's won awards for its transport services. But it is not a soulless town on a commuter belt.
This is a dynamic , modern large town with an excellent red brick university, one of the UK's top shopping centres, plenty of cultural attractions and it has been attracting a high level of investment, accounting for around 60 per cent of the input into the whole of the South East. Unlike many other UK locations, Reading hasn't experienced a negative impact on levels of employment, and much of that is down to the large multinationals based here, such as Microsoft, Oracle, BG Group, and Symantec.
It's a historic town that has evolved across the centuries, with the remains of the 12th century Abbey still at its heart, the river Thames and the countryside just minutes' away, and plenty of conservation areas, wildlife and nature reserves, and heritage sites. Culture vultures are well catered for with the Hexagon Theatre, 21 South Street, and the Progress Theatre (where Kenneth Branagh made some of his first appearances, The Concert Hall, Reading Symphony Orchestra, Youth Orchestra and Operatic Society. For music lovers, there's even more, with the famous Reading Festival, and now the new Heavenly Planet festival launching in August. Waterlovers have the annual Waterfest in June, and in July there's the Real Ale and Jazz Festival to enjoy.
Recent newcomer to the town and managing director of the brand new Hilton hotel, Meredith Bevan couldn't be more enthusiastic about the town. "When I was first offered the job here, my wife began calling it Dreading," says Meredith. " Now that we've moved here here, we laugh at what we visualised. We didn't imagine it could be such a fantastic place."
The 210-bedroom hotel is part of the major Southside development, close to the A33, and is said to be the largest conferencing venue in Reading, also providing a health and leisure club and restaurants. Further development in the area, which already has 1,150 new homes in the urban village of Kennet Island, will include offices, retail and healthcare facilities.
The choice for homeowners throughout Reading is enormous, both for living and as investment. "Reading attracts many families and commuters, and there's housing to suit all ages and profiles," says Peter Coles, managing director for residential property at Romans, "whether it's 'contemporary living' apartments, modern estates, traditional older family homes, or properties in the surrounding villages, Reading provides excellent value for money."
Lettings are particularly buoyant and developers have been meeting the demand with luxury apartment developments both in the town centre and further out. Haslams, which has been involved in new developments for the past 10 years, is currently offering prestigious apartments in the first phase of an 11-acre development at Chatham Place, with prices ranging from £155,000 to 235,000. Just a few minutes' walk away is the award-winning Oracle shopping centre with more than a 100 retail outlets, as well as restaurants and bars, some along Riverside. It's also ideal for the station and trains to Paddington every 8 minutes! Around the same price level, there are 60 apartments at Q2 in Queens Road on the eastern side of town, again within walking distance from the town.
Tamesis Reach, from local builder T A Fisher, is a prestigious development of three-storey five-bedroom townhouses in Caversham, with balconies overlooking the park. Priced from 542,000, these high spec homes offer both a village atmosphere alongside the Thames, and easy access to the town centre and rail station. Also at Caversham, which has a good choice of restaurants and shops, including Waitrose and M&S, is Little Woodcote, a small select development of just seven detached and terraced family homes, priced from 329,950. At Kenavon Drive, 500-plus homes are about to be built adjacent to the Kennet, offering a canalside lifestyle.
According to Matthew Bates at Davis Tate, which has seen a 30 per cent increase in business recently, estate agents in Reading seem to have survived the credit crunch, and Dale Norton, who founded Romans in 1987, is keen to focus on the visible signs of recovery and reports a positive 2009 so far: "Sales across our network of 14 branches are up almost 20% on the same period in 2008 and canny buyers and investors are, in increasing numbers, taking advantage before prices inevitably begin to rise again."
Out & about
Property prices: New apartments - Kennet Island, 165,000- 235,000, Chatham Place, 155,000 to 235,000. Mature 4/5-bed detached, Caversham, 800,000- 1,475m. Two-bed cottage Ememr Green, 329,500.
Schools: Kendrick Girls' Grammar, Reading Boys' Grammar, independents Abbey, Crossfields, Leighton Park.
Hotels: Malmaison, Accorde, Madejski, Renaissance, Forbury, Hilton.
Restaurants: Various at Oracle shopping centre and Riverside, Forburys, Carlucccios, Wagamama, Dolce Vita, London St Brasserie, Las Iguanas.
Shopping: Oracle with House of Fraser and smaller retailers, Broad Street and town centre with John Lewis and lots of independent boutiques. Caversham village.
Sports: reading Football Club and London Irish RFC at Madejski Stadium , Reading University Rowing Club, Reading Amateur Regatta.
Visit: Museum of Aviation, Museum of Reading, Museum of Rural English Life.
Countryside: Cycling, walking, canalside trails, river cruises from Caversham.
What the locals say: "I've lived all over the place and I can't impress enough how great Reading is. It's like London but with personal service!" Meredith Bevan.
Websites for information: www.livingreading.co.uk, www.rukmagazine.com
What: Q2 apartments built by Crest Nicholson, with balconies/terraces, close to town centre.
How much: Prices start at 123,960 for a one bedroom apartment with Crest Nicholson's EasyBuy scheme. Available on selected plots the scheme gives first time buyers the chance to own 100 per cent of their new home and pay only 80 per cent of the purchase price, paying no rent or interest on the outstanding 20 per cent for the first five years.
Agent: Haslams. Tel: 0118 960 1000.