All aboard for a sea­side roller­coaster ride

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

When Dream­land, Bri­tain’s old­est amuse­ment park, re­opened in Mar­gate this week af­ter a £10mil­lion build­ing pro­ject, it could seen as sym­bolic of the Kent town’s roller­coaster jour­ney. What be­gan as a much-loved beach re­sort 250 years ago had, by the Nineties, be­come a run-down town with high un­em­ploy­ment, typ­i­cal of many English sea­side spots.

Now Mar­gate is start­ing to take a new course, spurred on by the open­ing of its Turner Con­tem­po­rary gallery in 2011, in­vest­ment in its trans­port and leisure of­fer­ings and a new wave of in­de­pen­dent shops. Mar­gate’s grandiose town houses, which had been carved up into poky rented flats, are in­creas­ingly be­ing re­stored by pri­vate in­vestors into sin­gle homes again.

And then there’s Dream­land, the 16-acre theme park built in the 1880s but in de­cline by the start of the 21st cen­tury. Wayne Hem­ing­way and his wife, Ger­ar­dine, are be­hind Dream­land’s rein­ven­tion as a her­itage amuse­ment park.

“Dream­land fits in per­fectly with the vintage hipster at­mos­phere of the old town. There’s a real Fifties feel, which peo­ple love – the vintage shops, in­de­pen­dent cafés and sec­ond­hand fur­ni­ture shops and don­key rides,” says Si­mon Back­house from Strutt & Parker Can­ter­bury. “Mar­gate is a bucket and spade des­ti­na­tion for peo­ple who are look­ing for a cheap English sea­side hol­i­day, but it can be a real eye-opener for peo­ple who haven’t been be­fore. It’s full of fan­tas­tic Ge­or­gian houses – the sort of Ge­or­gian square you’d find tucked away in east Lon­don.”

Mar­gate may have the pe­riod ar­chi­tec­ture and the em­bry­onic signs of hipster-dom that have con­sumed ar­eas such as Hack­ney, but prop­erty prices still bear lit­tle re­sem­blance. A six-bed­room ter­raced house in good con­di­tion is on sale in Haw­ley Square for £300,000 (01843 231222; mile­sand­ On the seafront in Sea View Ter­race, the Grade II listed Seascape House, which has been mod­ernised through­out, re­tain­ing its pe­riod fea­tures, is on the mar­ket for £750,000 (01227 807817; strut­tand­

Strutt & Parker are also mar­ket­ing 6 The Beach House – one of 11 new­build, two-bed­room homes over­look­ing West­brook Bay, cost­ing £495,000. Could Mar­gate be the next Brighton in a decade or so? “Per­haps,” thinks Back­house, “but it will need more in­vest­ment, par­tic­u­larly in the high street.”

Lon­don-style “hip­ness” is start­ing to per­vade sev­eral ar­eas of the east Kent coast, says buy­ing agent He­len Turner of Prop­erty Turner. “I see a lot of self-em­ployed peo­ple or those who need to go to Lon­don a cou­ple of times a week start­ing to move to Deal, St Mar­garet’s Bay and Folke­stone.”

Folke­stone has seen sub­stan­tial re­gen­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of a Cre­ative Quar­ter in its old town, at the hands of for­mer Saga boss Roger de Haan. And the value, par­tic­u­larly to Lon­don eyes, is strik­ing. Within a two-minute walk of Folke­stone Cen­tral sta­tion, a six-bed­room house with an in­door swimming pool is on sale for £600,000 (01303 256505; war­dand­part­ners., and on a clifftop, there’s a five-bed­room Ed­war­dian semide­tached house for £350,000, also through Ward & Part­ners.

Folke­stone fares well in Sav­ills’ re­cent look at Kent “coastal com­mut­ing” towns, with jour­ney time to Lon­don com­ing in just un­der an hour and av­er­age prop­erty prices of £183,365.

In its anal­y­sis, Sav­ills also finds three “emerg­ing prime” lo­ca­tions on the Kent coast. These in­clude Deal, which has seen 23 per cent price growth over the past five years. “De­spite its im­pres­sive growth, Deal re­mains good value, cheaper on av­er­age than other coastal lo­ca­tions in Kent such as Whit­stable, Hythe and Sand­wich,” says Sav­ills’ re­searcher So­phie Chick.

Deal has found a fol­low­ing among cre­ative types – Nor­man Wis­dom and Charles Hawtrey were both res­i­dents. The “pink pound” is strong here too, says Strutt & Parker’s Si­mon Back­house. “We have sold to a num­ber of cou­ples who buy lovely lit­tle fish­er­man’s houses and turn them into truly amaz­ing sec­ond homes,” he says.

Deal’s seafront has a gen­teel air, with a hand­some stretch of build­ings fac­ing its peb­bly beach. Among them, a Grade II listed, three-bed­room town house will cost about £600,000. Deal’s high street was voted the best in Bri­tain by The Daily Tele­graph last year.

The new high-speed rail ser­vice has halved jour­ney times to Lon­don, now at 1hr 20min, which means that Lon­don com­muters are be­gin­ning to see Deal as a vi­able op­tion, ac­cord­ing to Ben Hugill, branch man­ager of Haart.

At the high­est end of Deal’s mar­ket is Ty-Bryn, a de­tached sixbed­room house be­lieve to have been built by Win­ston Churchill’s pri­vate sec­re­tary, Eliot Craw­shayWil­liams, on sale for £1.6mil­lion (strut­tand­

Along the coast, Sand­wich has two world-class golf cour­ses, a me­dieval cen­tre – and it’s about to get a Waitrose. As for prop­erty prices, there’s a three-bed­room mid-ter­race pe­riod cot­tage on the mar­ket at £279,000 (01227 452780; hum­

“Sand­wich has be­come a mag­net for peo­ple look­ing for value for money and quick ac­cess to Lon­don. For less than £300,000, you can buy a beau­ti­ful­lyren­o­vated three-bed­room home and be in King’s Cross in less than an hour and a half,” says Martin Jor­dan, di­rec­tor of Hum­berts in Can­ter­bury.

“It’s a town that I didn’t even know ex­isted when we first vis­ited about eight years ago. I loved it the sec­ond I saw it with its ridicu­lously well-pre­served me­dieval core,” says John Fothergill, 39, who ad­vises artists on com­mer­cial strat­egy. He and his wife, Dorothy, 34, a movie cos­tume de­signer, ini­tially bought a week­end home in Sand­wich, be­fore mov­ing to Tem­per­ance House, a listed 16th-cen­tury town house. It had “three walls, no floor, no ceil­ing” when they bought it three years ago. Now the four-bed­room house ex­udes a stylish, quirky bou­tique Lon­don chic in its large, beamed rooms.

“It was a real top to bot­tom, in­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion as the prop­erty was at death’s door,” says John, who has put Tem­per­ance House on the mar­ket for £625,000 through Strutt & Parker (01227 451123; strut­tand­ as it’s no longer ideal for their soonto-tod­dle child.

“It’s hap­pen­ing all along the coast in Rams­gate, Mar­gate, Sand­wich and Deal – but each town has a very dif­fer­ent feel,” he says. “Deal al­ready feels like it’s be­com­ing an out­post of Lon­don. Sand­wich has a slightly older pop­u­la­tion, but it’s a bo­hemian place full of peo­ple with in­ter­est­ing back sto­ries.”

Sounds faintly Shored­itch – but John feels this cor­ner of Kent is still oddly over­looked. “Other towns a sim­i­lar dis­tance from Lon­don in the other di­rec­tion are far more densely pop­u­lated with far higher prop­erty val­ues, yet Sand­wich’s Ed­war­dian and Vic­to­rian hous­ing stock is phe­nom­e­nal. We know var­i­ous peo­ple who have sold in Lon­don for around £1mil­lion and bought a great full-time house here and still had enough left to buy a pied à terre in Lon­don,” he says.

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