£50m revamp of the Oval puts Zone 2 in the spotlight
TRANSFORMATION of the Kia Oval ground, the home of Surrey County Cricket Club, heralds a new era for this overlooked Zone 2 area. There are plans to create a new neighbourhood around the landmark south London stadium, turning it into a “modern-day Coliseum” with new shops and restaurants along its perimeter, while the stadium itself will be opened up with architecture that will embrace the community and spur on widescale regeneration in the surrounding area.
The cricket club and the landowner, the Duchy of Cornwall, propose a £50 million scheme to rebuild two spectator stands, boosting capacity by 8,000 and making it the largest dedicated cricket ground outside India and Australia. The scheme will open up streetfacing areas beneath the stands, creating space for shops, restaurants and local businesses. One of Prince Charles’s favoured architects, Hugh Petter of ADAM Architecture, has been appointed to draw up the scheme and the aim is for work to finish in 2023.
The number of cricket supporters emerging from the Tube station — marked out by their red chinos and Panama hats — has increased in recent years and match day sales have risen to an unprecedented degree. The club has built up a database of 282,000 fans, and the best part of 500,000 are expected to visit the Oval this year.
The new interest is bringing extra focus in the area. “Aesthetically, things already started to improve when the same firm of architects redesigned the
main entrance of the stadium in 2013,” says Johnny Male of local estate agents Daniel Cobb. “Prior to that, there was an ugly Sixties design but this work really served to raise the profile of the stadium and create something architecturally attractive in Oval.”
The Oval, which staged England’s first international Test match in 1880, has suffered from a slight identity crisis beyond cricket. Sandwiched between Vauxhall with its shiny riverside flats, Stockwell — home to early 19th-century Regency family-friendly houses — and Kennington, with its proximity to Waterloo, Oval’s streets lack definition and their own postcode, teetering between SE11, SW9 and SW8.
FIRST-TIME BUYER APPEAL
Partly as a result, property prices have historically been more affordable, despite Oval’s central London location. Housing stock is dominated by the fourstorey, red-brick Victorian ex-council buildings clustered around the stadium, some large estates and the occasional pocket of pretty period terraces.
“The diverse housing stock appeals to first-time-buyers,” says Graham Walker of Dexters. “House prices in Oval are slightly cheaper than nearby Vauxhall or Kennington.” But this gap in value has been eroded in recent years, adds Johnny Male. Latest figures from Rightmove put the overall average price for Oval at £521,499, which is similar to Stockwell but cheaper than Vauxhall and Kennington. “We see parents investing here, buying homes for their children who might be studying nearby at King’s College or London South Bank University,” says William Pasquali of Hamptons. “You get more for your money in Oval, especially when compared with Vauxhall and Clapham which offer similar transport links.”
A typical first-time buy still involves a hefty investment: Daniel Cobb just had an offer accepted on an attractive onebedroom flat in Clayton Street, a few minutes’ from the Tube, for £415,000.
Another reason locals cite for Oval’s lack of a strong identity is the absence of a significant high street. There are short parades of functional but largely unremarkable shops split between Clapham Road and Brixton Road. Oval also marks the confluence of three busy, noisy roads.
But look closer and Oval ticks a lot of buyer boxes. It’s just nine minutes to Bank station on the Northern line, so it’s popular with City workers. The new cycle superhighways crisscross the area. “It’s like a motorway for commuter cyclists in the morning,” says one resident. Grade II-listed Kennington Park, one of central London’s unspoken delights, is on the doorstep and has gone from strength to strength thanks to the community effort of nearby residents.
Ashmole and Henry Fawcett Primary Schools are both Ofsted “outstanding”. A successful weekly farmers’ market clusters around handsome St Mark’s Church. There’s the Ovalhouse Theatre, the off-West End venue built in the Sixties that spawned the careers of Pierce Brosnan and Steven Berkoff. A café society has yet to emerge but reworking the stadium could help, says ADAM Architecture’s Hugh Petter, whose design involves taking down the solid stadium perimeter wall. “It’s not just about creating a top-notch sports facility but also about introducing community benefits. By removing the wall and opening up spaces underneath the stands for shops and businesses, the aim is to improve the surrounding streets and create a more dynamic environment for Oval overall.”
Another major sign of change looms in the imminent redevelopment of the iconic gas holders just north of the stadium. Decommissioned in 2014, one of the gas holders, with its distinctive iron fretwork, is now Grade II listed. Housebuilder Berkeley has an option on the 12-acre site and has put forward a redevelopment masterplan with Lambeth council to include two towers of 13 storeys, homes built within the main 14storey gas holder and other six- to 11-storey buildings. But a survey by local pressure group Create Streets found many people want to ensure the development reflects “Kennington and not Vauxhall” in style and scale, with fewer glass towers and designs more sympathetic to the area and families.
Create Streets has an alternative plan, Little Oval, which provides a similar number of homes — 1,187 versus 1,250 — keeps two gas holders as public spaces and reflects local architecture with details such as iron balconies, as a nod to the gas holders and to ironwork at nearby Courtenay Square. “It’s about creating a unique new neighbourhood, not a ghetto of wealth,” argues Nicholas Boys Smith of Create Streets.
POCKETS of other smaller new development are growing up around Oval, including Paragon Mews in SW8, which has been developed on the site of long-redundant garages that were used by the Metropolitan Police Special Branch. The eight houses with three to four bedrooms are priced from £ 825,000 to £ 1.5 million. Through Hamptons on 020 3451 1544 or Daniel Cobb on 020 7735 9510.
Pickle Mews is another new-build scheme, with three-bedroom houses set on a private gated site moments from Oval Tube station, for £1.4 million, available through Dexters.
Meanwhile, the postcard-pretty Georgian Hanover Gardens, just a minute’s walk from the Tube, is the premier address in Oval, and among the most expensive. Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward has a two-bedroom, split-level flat on the market for £700,000.
Handsome: St Mark’s Church, scene of Oval’s popular weekly farmers’ market
Right: how the “modern day Coliseum” is envisaged under ADAM Architecture’s plan, opening up the Kia Oval ground to include street-facing shops, eateries and businesses
Masterplan: Berkeley Homes and Lambeth council propose 1,250 homes on a 12-acre site centred on historic gasholders
From £825,000 to £1.5 million: three- and four-bedroom houses at Paragon Mews, SW8. Daniel Cobb (020 7735 9510)
£489,950: left, in Clapham Road, Oval, SW9, a three-bedroom first-floor flat, handy for Oval and Stockwell Tube. Dexters (020 7650 5102) Right: Tube links are good, with Kennington, Oval and Stockwell stations handy