The im­pact of Som­er­set’s new nu­clear neigh­bour

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Taunton ( 61,000). This part of the West Coun­try, sand­wiched be­tween the Quan­tock Hills and the Mendips, is beau­ti­ful in parts, yet has lit­tle of the ro­mance or sail­ing tra­di­tion that char­ac­terise much of the rest of the re­gion. There is also lit­tle de­vel­op­ment by the water, at least partly be­cause the age­ing and ugly Hink­ley Point B power sta­tion – built be­tween 1967 and 1976 – has hardly been con­ducive to at­tract­ing de­vel­op­ers or sec­ond­home buy­ers.

Now a wider area of north Som­er­set, for good or for bad, is about to un­dergo a trans­for­ma­tion thanks to the lat­est plant. “Bridg­wa­ter is al­ready un­recog­nis­able,” says Gideon Sump­tion of Stacks Prop­erty Search, a buy­ing agency, who praises the town coun­cil’s far­sight­ed­ness at en­cour­ag­ing low­cost ho­tels and apart­ments to be built in good time to house Hink­ley Point C’s build­ing army.

“The work­ers at this stage are mostly short term, there for only one to two years, so they’re rent­ing rather than buy­ing. But in years to come, there will be peo­ple mov­ing here for longer and they’ll buy,” be­lieves Nick Zorab of Chanin & Thomas, an es­tate agency in Mine­head.

Val­ues are al­ready ris­ing rapidly in locations near Hink­ley Point C: ac­cord­ing to Zoopla, Mine­head prices rose 3.7 per cent in the past year, with Taunton up 6.6 per cent and Bridg­wa­ter see­ing a rise of 7.6 per cent. This is de­spite EDF it­self build­ing tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion units for 1,500 work­ers, help­ing to ease some of the hous­ing sup­ply short­age.

In­vestors are now flock­ing to the area. “It’s hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on new-build prices,” says auc­tion­eer David Bed­doe, di­rec­tor of the north Som­er­set divi­sion of Auc­tion House. He says the most am­bi­tious in­vestors want large houses for ren­o­va­tion and old schools and nurs­ing homes ripe for con­ver­sion; more mod­est ones are af­ter two-bed­room homes, but now risk pric­ing out lo­cal first-time buy­ers who are seek­ing the same kind of prop­er­ties.

Most agents say the long-term ap­peal of the area and the grow­ing pop­u­la­tion mean that, once the plant is up and run­ning, even the current glut of new ac­com­mo­da­tion can be ab­sorbed. Be­tween now and then, how­ever, there will be blight is­sues for some.

Bed­doe says some com­mu­ni­ties will be ir­ri­tated by the prob­lems that al­ways plague such projects, such as con­trac­tors park­ing off-site and in­creased traf­fic and air pol­lu­tion as a re­sult of huge num­bers of HGVs. “The de­vel­op­ment will po­ten­tially see a 50 per cent in­crease in such traf­fic, and this will be felt fur­ther afield in Bridg­wa­ter and Glas­ton­bury,” he warns.

Some prob­lems may go on even af­ter the plant is op­er­a­tional. Robin Gould, who runs Sav­ills’ buy­ing arm Prime Pur­chase, is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the nearby east­ern edge of Ex­moor for a suit­able home for a high net worth client. “I’m look­ing at the pro­posed py­lon routes, of which there are three or four, as the power needs to be trans­ported from Hink­ley, which po­ten­tially will be a huge blight,” he warns.

How­ever, oth­ers be­lieve short-term pain may ac­tu­ally pro­duce long-term gain for most in the area, de­spite the pres­ence of what will be one of the world’s largest nu­clear power plants.

“The con­sen­sus of pub­lic opin­ion now seems to be that nu­clear is green and sus­tain­able, not dirty and fright­en­ing. The neg­a­tive ef­fect on prices no longer ex­ists to any­thing like the same ex­tent as be­fore,” says Sump­tion, of Stacks.

The streets of north Som­er­set may not quite be paved with gold, but for some at least they ap­pear to be ben­e­fit­ing from the prox­im­ity of ura­nium.

Beere Manor in Can­ning­ton, £1.35 mil­lion with Jack­sonS­tops

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