Tuesday, 28 September 2021

‘Golden valley‘ is future-proof — but at a price

HAVE you ever heard the expression “Willing seller plus willing buyer plus governmental agenda, equals prices

HAVE you ever heard the expression “Willing seller plus willing buyer plus governmental agenda, equals prices that would otherwise be irrational“?

Well, Standard Property certainly has, and this now appears to be happening under our very noses, according to some.

Local estate agents are reporting a rise in the number of house-hunters looking for homes where neighbouring land is protected from development. Think National Parks such as the New Forest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In turn, this seems to be putting our local area on the map — once again.

Nicholas Brown, partner at Knight Frank in Thame Side, said: “There seems to be a greater media interest in Henley, with an increasing number of requests for houses locally that our PR department in London have been picking up. This has enabled us to give our clients some excellent exposure to the widest audience.

“I was recently approached by CNN to speak to them on a feature they were running on their property show One Square Meter.

“They had picked up my quote in an article in the Wall Street Journal on the clear benefits of living in such a beautiful area as Henley. The piece focused on the clear benefits to living in a location where excessive development has thus far been limited.

“For all that there is a strong demand for new homes across the country, Henley has escaped large-scale development.“

This is in no small part due to the classification of much of the Chiltern Hills and the local Thames Valley as being an AONB with “sites of special interest“ or “landscape value“.

This is especially true of the Hambleden Valley where there is an additional layer of protection due to a rigorously enforced National Trust covenant that covers many of the properties.

Mr Brown continued: “This was the main focus of the CNN film, comparing Henley to the Buntingford area that seems to be the focus of large-scale development. It is remarkable where our enquiries are coming from. Only the other morning I had a call from an American lady who is relocating to the UK and looking for a house close to Henley. She had picked up our details through the CNN programme.“

So could there be a battle a‘brewing? On the one side, affluent homeowners in villages and hamlets who have moved to the country seeking peace, privacy and country views; on the other, developers in search of new places to build — and a government trying to address a ballooning housing crisis.

(Witness the situation with the Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan: our two parishes must take 450 homes by 2027 to meet housing targets and the finished plan names the sites where they will go.)

This standoff leaves buyers with an eye on a country cottage or tumbledown estate facing a quandary. They certainly don‘t want to find themselves living beside a new housing estate in a few years‘ time. So it‘s no wonder that homes in one of our National Parks or AONBs are now attracting a price premium from buyers anxious to future-proof their country retreats.

While these areas aren‘t 100 per cent development-proof, they are considered the safest bets for buyers nervous about new development.

As the debate rages on, prime market agents will continue to direct clients in search of unspoiled countryside to our National Park areas and AONBs.

Nicholas Brown added: “This is one of many reasons to buy property in the Hambleden ‘golden valley‘ . Hambleden is a genuinely beautiful spot and is in every film location scout‘s address book, but buying into Hambleden is not cheap. People pay a premium to live there, with prices reaching up to £800,000 for a small two-bedroom cottage. They know that the area is heavily protected from change, and they are willing to pay for that protection.“

A spokesperson for the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: “Developers are targeting attractive small historic towns and villages and as a result they are going to grow substantially and lose their distinctive identity. Unless we have a change, there will be more and more developments sprawling out into the countryside.“

On the flipside, the government says that the new housing policies helped boost construction and economic growth.

“It will help build the homes the next generation needs, it will let businesses expand and create jobs, while conserving our countryside,“ said a spokesperson.

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