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High Speed 1 will make Kent even more commutable

THE Garden of England has always been an attractive location for commuters looking for fresh air and plenty of green countryside. Towns such as Tonbridge and Sevenoaks have long been classic commuter towns for those working in the City, but other parts of Kent have been out of reach for those who work in London. <br /><br />But all that is about to change. The High Speed 1 rail link, which connects Ashford and St Pancras, opens later this month, reducing the journey time from Ashford from over an hour at best to a very commutable 37 minutes.<br /><br />Unsurprisingly, with the prospect of a commute shorter and more pleasant than many Londoners currently experience, buyer interest in Kent properties is shooting up. <br /><br /><strong>VILLAGE ASPIRATIONS</strong><br />Alex Davies, director of Hobbs Parker in Ashford, says that the price pick-up is almost exclusively in areas that are 30-40 minutes from London. &ldquo;The villages around Ashford are going to benefit first because the cost of using the high speed train means it&rsquo;s going to benefit the upper and middle market first and the aspiration will be to live in a village. <br /><br />&ldquo;In Ashford itself, we&rsquo;ve already seen that in some of the more upmarket areas such as Kennington, people have already started buying in anticipation of the railway.&rdquo; <br /><br />In December, Folkestone, Canterbury, Ramsgate, Margate and Dover will also see reduced times &ndash; trains will run direct from those towns at slow speed to Ashford, and then speed up on the new track &ndash; but probably not enough to turn them into commuter hotspots. <br /><br />As well as the shorter times, though, Kent has other attractions. The excellent school system has been a major attraction for prospective buyers with young children moving out of London. Kent is one of the last counties in the UK to have grammar schools and also has a range of independent schools in Canterbury and Ashford. <br /><br /><strong>ATTRACTIVE CANTERBURY</strong><br />While Ashford is clearly the most accessible town, Canterbury is the most attractive to live in or near in terms of the choice of shops and restaurants on offer, ideal for Londoners used to such things. With the high speed link, commuting time from Canterbury to London will be cut from 110 minutes to 59 minutes.<br /><br />Folkestone and the surrounding area benefit strongly from their coastal location, which is very scenic and easily accessible from the town and the villages to the north. If you fancy a European holiday or booze cruise, the Channel Tunnel is located just outside Folkestone, and the port of Dover is just 15 minutes away by car. High Speed 1 will reduce the journey time from Folkestone to London to 57 minutes, compared to the current one hour 40 minutes. <br /><br />Davies estimates that you can probably add 5 per cent per year to your property value for the next four to five years and this increase simply reflects the impact of the high speed rail link. Buy your slice of the Kent countryside now, before prices really start to soar. <br /><br /><strong>NACKINGTON HOUSE, CANTERBURY</strong><br />Price: &pound;875,000<br />A five-bedroom house on the southern edge of Canterbury, which comes with an indoor swimming pool and an extensive garden.&nbsp; <br />Contact: Humberts Canterbury on 01227 452780, www.humberts.co.uk <br /><br /><strong>HOLBOROUGH LAKES, WEST MALLING</strong><br />Price: &pound;249,995 for a three-bedroom house<br />Just 20 minutes by car from Ebbsfleet, this new development is set within landscaped grounds. <br />Contact: Berkeley Homes on 01634 244666, www.holboroughlakes.co.uk