Private chauffeur services are the next weapon in the high end homes arms race. Will they prove enticing to wealthy buyers?

Eleanor Doughty
Cars lined up outside Battersea Place

Car clubs are now as ubiquitous on London’s new development scene as bonkers basements are in Notting Hill Gate. An Aston Martin deal here, a borrow-my-Merc offering there, the car club has become so well-entrenched that white painted lines are filling up desirable streets across the capital, declaring “Car club only”.

At the South Gardens development in Elephant & Castle, residents are offered three different vehicular options as part of their service charge: three years of free car club membership, electric vehicle charging points, or secure underground parking. But these perks are more than just savvy marketing.

A new emissions surcharge, known as the ‘T Change’, will come into effect in central London in October. By April 2019, a further scheme, known as the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) will also be implemented and car-pooling options, coupled with electric car facilities, are aimed at cutting our congested streets.

But lately, in some parts of town, a new kind of convenience has been springing up to service residents’ transport needs. The town car service, in which a member of the concierge team at your luxury residence of choice ferries you to the nearest Tube station in the morning for work, then drops you back again after the theatre, is all included with the service charge.

It’s the ultimate Uber upgrade – and no one needs to worry about getting a five star rating.

The Hampstead Manor development by Mount Anvil offers a chauffeur-driven Mercedes shuttle service to its residents. Spaces to and from Hampstead station are available on a first-come, first-served basis, morning and evening. This, says sales director Jon Hall, was a decision made early on. “Many of our residents are frequent taxi users and, in allocating a private car to the scheme, we are upholding the convenience and efficiency with a touch of luxury.”

But it’s not all about convenience, Hall adds. “Hampstead residents are acutely aware of their carbon footprint, so in providing a car service which will operate as a shuttle during rush hour, we will be minimising carbon emissions without compromising on calibre of transport.”

The Star & Garter development in Richmond

And it’s spreading; two miles away down the road at Buxmead, another luxury development on the Bishop’s Avenue a mile and a half from Hampstead station, developer Harrison Varma is “consulting” residents about whether they, too, would like the service introduced.

In Richmond, the landmark Star & Garter development by London Square has also launched a town car service, managed by the Harrods on-site concierge. Residents can book in to be driven from home to Richmond station, or anywhere else in town at any time of day.

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And in Battersea, on Albert Bridge Road, the launch of luxury retirement village Battersea Place has also brought with it a concierge car service. The 103 apartments come with access to a communal lounge, cinema, pool and gym, all serviced by a variety of useful transport options. Alongside a residents’ carpool service – of course – there’s the option of hiring a private chauffeur.

This is particularly popular, says Nigel Sibley, chief executive of Lifecare Residents. “Many like to use it when travelling to and from London airports.” But for shorter journeys, he explains, they’ve gone one better, introducing a private bus service, which transports residents into nearby Kensington and Chelsea.

These bespoke services work because they are in exactly the right location, says Carsten Swift of Knight Frank – that is, not in the centre of London. “The town car introduces something appropriate to the geography, rather than making it a frill which is eye-catching, but probably a bit of a waste of time in the wrong place.

“But if you’ve been away for business, and you’re coming into Waterloo, it’s incredibly reliable and convenient to just be able to ring the concierge and say, ‘I'll be at the station in quarter of an hour, would you mind picking me up?’”

In our increasingly congested cities, these personalised car services may be an especially luxurious solution to London’s pollution problem.

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