Unlocking hidden gems of rural Britain
Andrew Johnson relies on the A30. The selfemployed marketing consultant uses the 284-mile road, which runs from Land’s End to London, to connect to the motorway network so he can drive to Reading for work.
He lived in Peckham until four years ago, when he went in search of a lifestyle change, buying a fantasy property near Bude in the north of Cornwall. Leigh Manor Farm is an Elizabethan cottage, built on the site of a Norman fortress, in the village of Week St Mary. The four-bedroom property has mullioned stone windows, flagstone floors and a spiral staircase, and is nestled in six acres with two large barns.
“It’s a magical place with a working cider press and orchard,” says Johnson. He’s now selling up as business is booming and he’s spending more time in his Reading flat than his coastal haven. “I don’t want to leave the area so I’ll buy a smaller cottage near Bude that I can lock and leave for longer periods of time,” he explains.
He sees the A30 as a trusty travelling companion and a dual carriageway upgrade further south in Cornwall – on
‘In many parts of the country, car travel is still the key driver of economic growth’
an eight-mile stretch between the Chiverton Cross and Carland Cross roundabouts – will create better access to that craggy corner of the country for other long distance commuters.
Larger rail infrastructure projects tend to dominate the headlines, from Crossrail to HS2, due to the vast amounts of public money being spent, disruption to nearby homeowners and the impact on house prices. It is estimated that Crossrail will boost property values by 20 to 25 per cent along its route, for example.
However there are dozens of road improvement schemes under way across the UK at any given time, continually unlocking hard-to-reach pockets of rural Britain, improving people’s lives and making their properties more desirable.
“In many parts of the country, car travel is still the key driver of economic growth and so the road network re- mains critical,” says Will Taylor, director of the estate agency Martin & Co. “New road infrastructure can connect remote areas to population centres, reduce journey times and relieve congestion – all of which have potential to boost demand for homes.
“With the advent of driverless and electric cars, investment in the UK’s road network will remain high on the agenda and will influence Government decisions on the allocation of infrastructure investment.”
Road improvements are about safety as much as accessibility. For 20 years, the counties of the Cotswolds have debated how to tackle a three-mile stretch of the A417 near Nettleton Bottom. The only single carriageway on the road that links the M4 and the M5 (and an obvious route between London and the West Midlands), it suffers from heavy traffic and accidents are common. Highways England are looking at ways to reduce incidents and in turn alleviate holidaymaker traffic in the outlying villages, such as Bibury and Coln St Aldwyns to the east of the road and Painswick and Slad to the west.
New roads are not always welcomed, of course. Last month, Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, published plans for a tunnel under Stonehenge in Wiltshire. This will form part of the new South West dual carriage expressway linking the M3 in the south-east with the M5 in the west. The section of the A303 running alongside the World Heritage Site is a notorious bottleneck for holidaymakers heading to Devon and Cornwall, but the £2billion proposal has been criticised by Dan Snow, the president of the Council for British Archaeology, who likened the Government to vandals destroying ancient artefacts. “Sometimes an uplift is not seen immediately,” Taylor explains. “Indeed, prices can be negatively affected by the disruption. However, this can present an additional window of opportunity for investors to buy at a temporary discount.”
Research by Martin & Co reveals the three road projects completed in the past two years that have driven the greatest uplift in prices. Improvements to the intersection at junction 19 of the M1 (at Catthorpe, Leicestershire) boosted property values by 22.5 per cent; the Bedale bypass in North Yorkshire, finished in 2016, added 16.2 per cent; and the new junction at Elkesley off the A1 in Nottinghamshire pushed house prices up by 12 per cent.
So where should the savvy homebuyer head now? Here is our pick of the parts of Britain that are set to benefit from the next wave of road projects.
The upgrade of the A30 between Carland Cross and Chiverton Cross to a dual carriageway (£290million, due to start in 2019/2020). This will spread the commuter belt to Truro. “Better roads and therefore shorter travel times will open up residential pockets that buyers new to the area have not considered before, such as villages to the north of Truro: Zelah, Shortlanesend and Goonhavern,” says Will Gentle from Martin & Co.
Jonathan Cunliffe of Savills argues that the upgrade will ease the daily
grind for those who commute in and out of Cornwall by driving to Exeter to pick up the train.
However, the road improvements will need to go further to help the second-home owners and staycationers who visit the area, he says. “There’s a chance that it will just shift the bottleneck that we see on holidaymaker changeover day further west, so it’s to be hoped that the dual carriageway will ultimately extend down to Penzance and St Ives and open up more of the county.”
For sale Leigh Manor Farm, a Grade II listed cottage in Week St Mary, is £1.25million through Savills. KENT The upgrade of the A21 to a dual carriageway between Tonbridge and Pembury (£69.7million, completed in September 2017). The widening of the A21 to prevent the nasty bottleneck by Castle Hill has been a topic of debate for 20 years despite it being the only link road to the M25 from Royal Tunbridge Wells. Robert Jacobs from Savills believes that the upgrade will entice more commuters to the historic Kentish town. “All those villages down the length of the A21 south of Sevenoaks will be positively affected, including Bidborough, Speldhurst, Tudeley, Pembury, Matfield, Lamberhurst, Horsmonden, Goudhurst and Hawkhurst,” says Linda Wesson, director at Hamptons Interna- tional. “Due to the top grammar schools in Royal Tunbridge Wells these villages have primary schools of a very high standard.”
For sale Hamptons has a six-bedroom Georgian house in Bidborough with a gym for £1.795million.
TYNE AND WEAR
Improvements to the A19 junction at Downhill Lane (£100million, plans approved). The A19 links Newcastle to Sunderland, running past the Boldon villages. Currently, traffic backs up on the A184 through West Boldon at peak times, with a knockon effect for East Boldon. The project is designed to attract more buyers to the area and to improve quality of life for local residents. “West Boldon is in a conservation area and both villages have highly rated gastropubs, award-winning butchers and plenty of cafes,” says Christopher Kelly of Hunters. “The average house price is around £240,000 with some properties in the area reaching the £1million market.”
For sale Bailey & Co is selling a five-bedroom house in East Boldon, built in 1901, for £595,000.
A new A27 bypass at Chichester (£250million, in planning). With the rise of the staycation, the Witterings on the south coast have become increasingly popular during the school holidays, causing traffic to come to a standstill around the West Sussex city.
“Relieving congestion around Chichester with a bypass would open up a string of villages that still offer good value for money in the South East, such as Donnington and Hunston,” says Martin & Co’s Matt Berry.
The second homes market would also benefit from alleviating some of the traffic misery on the drive from London as the sailing fraternity head down to the beautiful villages of Bosham, Itchenor and Shipton Green on the Chichester Harbour inlets.
For sale Critchfield House, a fivebedroom home in Bosham, is £1.75million with Fine & Country.
‘Better roads and shorter travel times will open residential areas to new buyers’
BUCOLIC BEAUTY Bibury in the Cotswolds, cover, would benefit from improvements to the nearby A417; Critchfield House in Bosham above, is £1.75 million
LORD OF THE MANOR Andrew Johnson (right) and his partner Bob Fear are selling their home in Week St Mary, main, for £1.25 million through Savills DRIVING UP HOUSE PRICES A six-bedroom house in Kent’s Bidborough, above, is £1.795 million with Hamptons; Bailey & Co is selling a fivebedroom home in East Boldon, below, for £595,000