When house-hunting in London, the sleepy town of Orpington may not be high up your list. But there are many reasons why it should be, not least because its house price growth is among the fastest in outer London.
According to estate agent JLL’s London Residential Heat Map, house prices in the BR6 postcode grew by 21 per cent in the final quarter of 2016. With owner-occupiers pouring in from both Kent and London, it’s largely avoided the slowdown we’ve been seeing in the capital.
Nestled away in the leafy borough of Bromley, “Orpington Man” was the “Mondeo Man” of the 1960s, used by politicians to describe a lower-middle class Middle Englander. Before that, the area was know for the Orpington car, which was briefly popular in the 1920s.
Nowadays though, it’s the transport links that bring new buyers and upsizers from the neighbouring boroughs of Croydon, Lewisham and Greenwich. For such a small town, the train station is disproportionately well-connected. Direct trains run into London Bridge in 17 minutes, as well as Cannon Street, Blackfriars and Victoria. It’s also in Zone 6 of the Transport for London Oyster network and a 10 minute drive from the M25.
Young families also move to Orpington to be close to good schools. There are two “Outstanding” selective grammars in the area – St Olave’s for boys and Newstead Wood for girls – as well as Darrick Wood School, an “Outstanding” co-educational state school, and a Harris academy.
Jo “brother of Boris” Johnson is the newly re-elected local MP and has overseen improvements to town centre in recent years. Surrounded on three sides by green belt, the high street is far more Middle England than South London. Yet Orpington College has had a spruce, as well as the Walnut Shopping Centre, the public library and a new Odeon cinema has arrived surrounded by a restaurant complex.
As a result, developers are starting to invest. Last year, 7 per cent of sales were new flats created from office block conversions in the centre of town. The grounds of locally-listed building Bassetts House has been turned into London Square, a gated development of 32 flats and 58 family houses, where one bedroom apartments start at £310,000. Berkeley Homes has also moved in, building 83 apartments in the town centre with an NHS medical centre on the ground floor. With apartments from £404,000 and Help to Buy available, it’s over 90 per cent sold.
Lorraine Gatward, Land and New Homes associate director for jdm estate agents says, “We’re not there yet, but we’re certainly on our way. I think it’s a little bit like the Waitrose effect; when you get someone like Berkeley Homes building here, there is a knock-on effect, it gives comfort to other developers coming to the area.”
Sprawling mock-Tudor mansions make up most of the housing stock, resulting from London’s march on the countryside in the 1960s. “As nostalgia for rural values peaked, new estates were designed to look more like a country village than a suburb in Zone 6,” says David Fell, research analyst at Hamptons International.
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“Although Tudorbethan homes can’t command the premium their Victorian and Georgian counterparts do, they tend to be much larger, offering buyers more space designed for modern life.”
Hamptons research puts the average house price around £525,706, though there are wealthier pockets if you travel towards Locksbottom, where fine dining and a short drive to the designer shopping outlet Bluewater awaits. Only 3.7 per cent of sales exceed the £1m mark, and nothing has broken the record set by a detached house in Holwood Park Avenue, which sold for £4.45m in 2010.
The Walnuts Shopping Centre dominates the centre of town, with a number of retailers and supermarkets. Car fans will find plenty of nostalgia at The Big O Festival, showcasing vehicles from the 1940s through to the 1980s. The third annual event takes place on 1 July in Priory Gardens with free entry. For somewhere to eat, Chapter One in Locksbottom is a smart, contemporary restaurant selling modern European cuisine and offering cooking masterclasses, gourmet evenings and a tasting menu. Change of Horses is a much-loved 400 year old traditional pub in Farnborough Village with a large beer garden with a waterfall and pond. For local heritage, head to Crofton Roman Villa next to the train station, which was last inhabited between 140 and 400 AD. Goddington Park is a great local amenity, boasting a bowling green, cricket squares, rugby pitches, 5 football pitches and tennis.
House prices Source: Zoopla
Transport Source: TfL
Time to Victoria: 40 mins
Time to London Bridge: 17 mins
Nearest train station: Orpington
Best roads Source: Hamptons International
Most Expensive: Elm Walk: £2,272,494
Best Value: Taylor Close: £218,888