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Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - Commuting -

NEARLY 10 years af­ter Maid­stone lost fast trains to the Square Mile, City work­ers can once again con­sider Kent’s county town as an af­ford­able, con­ve­nient place to buy a fam­ily home.

Thames­link con­firms that from next year, a new Govia Thames­link ser­vice will run be­tween Maid­stone East and Lon­don Bridge, Black­fri­ars and Far­ring­don, be­fore con­tin­u­ing to Cam­bridge. It is thought trains to Lon­don Bridge will take about 52 min­utes and run all day — a vast im­prove­ment on the cur­rent five rush-hour trains a day to Black­fri­ars.

While Maid­stone has its flaws it also has some ma­jor plus points for a lifechang­ing move out of Lon­don. It sits on the River Med­way and mixes beau­ti­ful his­toric sec­tions and plenty of top-notch green­ery in the shape of Pe­nen­den Heath and the Kent Downs, along­side medi­ocre post-war build­ings stran­gled by ring roads and round­abouts. Homes are af­ford­able but ar­chi­tec­tural stan­dards are very mixed.

Traf­fic is aw­ful, but the schools are bril­liant, in­clud­ing In­victa Gram­mar, Maid­stone Gram­mar, Maid­stone Gram­mar School for Girls, and Val­ley Park, all rated “out­stand­ing” by Of­sted.

Given that this is a large town, it has lost its sense of in­di­vid­u­al­ity un­der an on­slaught of chain stores and pre­dictable restau­rant brands. But David Page, prin­ci­pal of Page & Ward es­tate agents, has plenty of Lon­don clients house hunt­ing in Maid­stone and be­lieves the new train ser­vice will at­tract more.

“At the mo­ment our train ser­vices are poor,” he says. “Peo­ple drive to Ebb­s­fleet to get a fast train and that takes them 25 min­utes which is ridicu­lous con­sid­er­ing we are only 35 miles from Lon­don. The new ser­vice will turn that around.” Page takes is­sue with the idea that Maid­stone’s 20th-cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture is ugly, al­though he ad­mits buy­ers need to move fast to pick up the best pe­riod prop­erty. “They al­ways go very quickly,” he says. His greater con­cern is that al­though Maid­stone is grow­ing, the qual­ity of new houses is “dis­ap­point­ing — they are just build­ing box, af­ter box, af­ter box.”

Buy­ers might be bet­ter ad­vised to seek out Maid­stone’s streets of Vic­to­rian houses where you could pick up a three- bed­room ter­race for about £300,000. Or shop for a four-bed­room Thir­ties semi for about £400,000.

Lovely vil­lages on the fringes in­clude Bearsted, Loose and East Far­leigh, which have avoided be­ing sub­sumed by ur­ban sprawl and have the coun­try looks most com­muters crave. Bet­ter yet, a five-bed­room pe­riod house with an acre of gar­den would cost £750,000£800,000 — about the same as a semi in Zone 4 Lon­don. This must be bal­anced against com­mut­ing costs, with an an­nual sea­son ticket from £4,492.

Beyond Maid­stone and its satel­lite vil­lages, and stay­ing in Kent, it is thought the new train ser­vice will also

£425,000: a spa­cious three-bed­room fam­ily house in Cur­zon Road, half a mile from Maid­stone East sta­tion. Through Fer­ris & Co (01622 922047)

County town of Kent: the River Med­way runs through the heart of Maid­stone

Gabriel’s Hill: scene of the 1648 Bat­tle of Maid­stone in the English Civil War

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