The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
The NEXT fashionable towns
The pandemic has sent 21 towns rocketing in popularity, says Anna White. So where should you be moving to be part of property’s Roaring Twenties?
A boutique hotel, a top chef opening a sustainable restaurant, or a celebrity sighting can catapult a formerly sleepy rural town to stardom. Only last year the exchancellor George Osborne became the latest big name to move to Bruton, Somerset, buying a £1.6 million townhouse, while the Beckhams’ recent planning application to expand their lake was the talk of Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds.
The path from city to pretty market town is welltrodden as growing families seek to raise their children out of the glare of the bright lights. But the lockdowns and working-from-home have supercharged this trend, making England’s designer towns even more desirable.
Online searches for homes in Chipping Norton were up 111 per cent this autumn on the year before and up 128 per cent in Bruton, according to Rightmove. “It only takes one family within a social set to pick a particular lifestyle town and it acts as a catalyst,” says Ed Stoyle, head of Yorkshire for Savills.
Downsizers are relocating too from smaller villages to towns, having felt isolated over the past 12 months.
The swell of demand and spread of wealth, as householders weigh up the personal equation of how far they can live from the office with how far their budget can go, could drive a renaissance of the high street, amenities and lifestyle in Britain’s secondary towns, experts believe.
Against a backdrop of dying physical retail brands, a new commercial landscape could potentially revive community and local shopping as more people spend more time – and money – in their neighbourhood.
Small town businesses have innovated to survive during the coronavirus: the butcher has reverted back to the 1970s delivery model, while the gin distillery leaves cocktails in milk bottles on the doorstep. These services may stay. “We are on the cusp of change,” says Damien Blower, principal architect at the firm Stedman Blower.
“Global-local services [businesses that sell online but also have a shop front] will underpin the economy of the smaller ultra-local centres,” he explains.
He cites a future high street with shops becoming flexible multipurpose spaces that provide an experience (such as an evening cooking class), co-working space for those working-from-home days, or even health-and-fitness studios (a lunchtime yoga class) as well as selling goods.
New planning laws also mean redundant retail units can now be easily converted into homes, bringing extra footfall to neglected high streets, Blower adds.
Of course, this all serves to raise house prices in the already-pricy destination towns and super-villages. The value gap between inner London properties and homes in the most desirable provincial parts of Britain has shrunk to its smallest margin in a decade.
The average price in the centre of the capital, the most expensive bit of the UK, was three times that of the luxury country market in 2014 but is now down to 2.4, new data reveals. Research by Savills, exclusive to The Telegraph, shows that the last time the urban-rural value gap was this narrow was in December 2010. There are no signs of this trend abating just yet. Savills reported that the number of new buyers registering with their regional offices was up 48 per cent in the first quarter of the year.
Frances Clacy, author of the Savills study, has a tip for rural house hunters priced out of the top towns. “Identify the premium town then look further along the train line for a more affordable alternative,” she says.
So, which burgeoning provincial locations offer both buzz and value? Take a tour of the 21 next “It towns” and “super-villages” for 2021 – before the celebs move in and prices climb further.
‘People are spending more time – and money – in their neighbourhoods’