Devon cream

In search of a chic sec­ond home? Zoe Dare Hall dis­cov­ers what’s on of­fer in Sal­combe and be­yond…

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Baywatch -

In th­ese credit-crunch times, a hol­i­day home hardly fig­ures on the list of ne­ces­si­ties — a fact that is forc­ing de­vel­op­ers in sec­ond-home hotspots, such as the South Hams, in Devon, ei­ther to put projects on ice un­til the mar­ket picks up or, for those who are plough­ing ahead, en­sure they have some­thing ex­cep­tional to of­fer.

This is some­thing Richard Knowles, UK di­rec­tor of Ben­ton Prop­erty Hold­ing, has learnt the hard way. “You have to hold your nerve and not cut any cor­ners be­cause if it’s not ab­so­lutely per­fect, you won’t be suc­cess­ful,” says Knowles.

His latest project is at Fal­lapit Es­tate, a Grade II-listed manor house set in 22 acres of private wood­land in East Alling­ton, 15 min­utes from Totnes and Sal­combe, where his com­pany is also con­vert­ing the faded Marine Ho­tel into a bou­tique ho­tel, de­signed by Richard Rogers, with 25 man­aged apart­ments cost­ing from £1.5mil­lion.

At Fal­lapit Es­tate, Knowles may have taken on a project that was filled with wet rot, dry rot, bats and a bell-tower that col­lapsed in the first week on site , but the re­sults will be spec­tac­u­lar.

The es­tate has a colour­ful his­tory. Sir Ed­mund Fortes­cue, whose fam­ily owned the es­tate from the early 14th cen­tury for 400 years, was the last to hold out against Cromwell, re­treat­ing back to Fal­lapit with his troops in the English Civil War.

In its new in­car­na­tion, Fall­pit com­bines strik­ingly chic in­te­ri­ors — the spec­i­fi­ca­tion is on a par with Ben­ton’s pre­vi­ous project, 131-132 Park Lane in May­fair — with one of the most soughtafte­r set­tings for a hol­i­day home in the coun­try.

In fact, nearly a quar­ter of the UK’s hol­i­day homes are in the South-West, and Sal­combe, in South Devon, is the sec­ond favourite hol­i­day home lo­ca­tion in the South West af­ter Sand­banks, in Dorset. It is also tops Sav­ills’s list of most ex­pen­sive lo­ca­tions, based on av­er­age prices (see box, be­low).

“If you went 20 miles in ei­ther di­rec­tion, this kind of project wouldn’t work,” says Knowles of Fal­lapit. “But the South Hams is it. It’s the best lo­ca­tion you can pos­si­bly find for a sec­ond home. Own­ers will have the run of the 22 acres of grounds, which were among the best gar­dens in the west of Eng­land in their time, with 400-year-old oak trees and rare spec­i­men trees from South Amer­ica.”

The manor house, for­merly a boys’ cor­rec­tion school, was in a state of de­cay when Ben­ton bought it three years ago. “If we’d left it an­other three months, it would have been past sav­ing,” says Knowles.

Now, there are eight two- or three-bed­room apart­ments in the manor house, where the orig­i­nal plas­ter­ing, 16th-cen­tury pan­elling and Gothic win­dows have been painstak­ingly re­con­structed, for sale from £525,000 to £900,000.

There are 24 new­build houses in the court­yard, start­ing at £350,000 for a one-storey, one- bed­room prop­erty, and there will be a sin­gle­storey house in the es­tate’s walled gar­den, with its own pool, cost­ing £960,000, all through Sav­ills.

Early buy­ers will also ben­e­fit from mem­ber­ship of Dart­mouth Golf Club, ac­cess to an on-site lifestyle concierge and they can skip the 20-year queue for a moor­ing in Sal­combe ma­rina.

The first prop­er­ties, in the old manor house, will be com­plete next month, with the en­tire es­tate ready by Septem­ber. Yet Sav­ills has only just launched the scheme. “Peo­ple are not buy­ing off-plan. That has very much been af­fected by the econ­omy,” says Julie Drake, of Sav­ills. “If you had viewed the house last Septem­ber, you wouldn’t have been able to vi­su­alise what could be achieved.”

Peter Dilling, co-owner of Fal­lapit Es­tate, adds: “It is a chal­lenge sell­ing in the cur­rent mar­ket and ev­ery­thing will take longer to go, but typ­i­cal sec­ond­home own­ers are peo­ple who don’t bor­row more than 50 per cent.”

Prices in the South-West rose by 11 per cent last year, com­pared with 9 per cent on av­er­age in the UK, and Knight Frank ex­pects this year’s mar­ket dip to be less se­vere in the South-West than in the rest of the coun­try (-1 per cent com­pared with an es­ti­mated -3 per cent), due partly to con­tin­ued de­mand from down­siz­ers and sec­ond-homers.

Prop­er­ties in what Knight Frank’s Liam Bai­ley calls “coastal hon­ey­pots” will al­ways be in de­mand, such as the new phase of nine spa apart­ments at Dart Ma­rina, in Dart­mouth, with fur­nished one-bed­room flats from £495,000, or 16 clifftop apart­ments at Prospect House, near South Hall­sands in the South Hams, from £320,000. Knight Frank is sell­ing 10 apart­ments at Wa­ter Mead­ows in Cock­ing­ton, near Torquay, with views across the Tor­bay coast­line, from £245,000.

“In­ter­est is still there among peo­ple who had hol­i­day homes on their hori­zon, par­tic­u­larly Sal­combe, with its lovely neck­lace of sandy beaches, or Dart­mouth, with its ma­rina and leisure fa­cil­i­ties,” says Jane Sum­mers, of Knight Frank. “Any­thing with sea views or a quick walk to the beach is still in de­mand and com­mu­nal fa­cil­i­ties are a big draw, rather than prop­er­ties that have too much land to main­tain.”

Richard Marc­hand, of Marc­hand Petit es­tate agency in Sal­combe, re­ports a new surge in in­ter­est. “The sec­ond-home mar­ket has burst into life for us. Last week, we made five sales of up to £2mil­lion,” he says, cit­ing the launch of At The Beach in Tor­cross, a beach­front ho­tel, now con­verted into apart­ments cost­ing from £285,000.

Paul Hales, 42, a restau­rant owner, and his wife Alison, 37, a doc­tor, from Leam­ing­ton Spa, in War­wick­shire, have shunned any­where abroad in favour of their six-bed­room house — a con­verted bed&break­fast — over­look­ing Sal­combe har­bour.

“We got a good deal as peo­ple want one of the pretty two- or three-bed­room cot­tages down the road and our house was al­most too big. The av­er­age four-bed­room house in Sal­combe costs about £450,000 and we paid only slightly more than that,” says Paul.

“We wanted a bolt­hole we could go to with our kids, where my wife can go on her own and where we have lots of friends with hol­i­day homes,” he adds.

“Sal­combe is a very friendly, so­cia­ble place and ev­ery­one has boats. You need a speed­boat there to head off for the day, around the bay to Dart­mouth or over to Burr is­land. Sal­combe is such a de­sir­able hol­i­day-home lo­ca­tion, but it’s also a good base for the fu­ture.” Fal­lapit Es­tate, www.fal­lapites­tate.com, Sav­ills 01392 455721 Marc­hand Petit, www.marchand­petit.co.uk, 01548 844473 Knight Frank, www.knight­frank.com, 01392 848844

Top-notch: Kings­bridge es­tu­ary, Sal­combe, Devon (above and be­low, left); panoramic view of the Fal­lapit Es­tate (be­low); the es­tate’s gar­den house and pool (bot­tom)

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