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Its hip to be in the square, whether that's in London or outside the city

IN residential stakes, it&rsquo;s pretty hard to top the London square. An emblem of elegance, a coveted enclave for the rich, famous and private, a square is where people who have reached the top go for a house. And despite the property market slump, those with cash still can&rsquo;t get enough of them.<br /><br />Howard Elston, of Aylesford International, says: &ldquo;The bonus of looking over a garden square has added considerably to the saleability of London flats and houses over many generations. Direct access to the garden square favours the family market, allowing children to play unattended in a secure environment. The outlook over a square has helped cement the value of certain houses and flats even during a downturn.&rdquo;<br /><br />Tony Blair&rsquo;s purchase of a pad in Connaught Square near Marble Arch proved one of his savviest moves ever. The house and mews attachment cost him &pound;4.45m in 2004 &ndash; it&rsquo;s now worth &pound;6.6m. Those who wish to call the perfectly formed square home must now expect to pay about &pound;1,100 per sq ft.<br /><br />Not everyone can afford such prices, of course, nor do they want to put up with the stress of living in Central London. Enter the flashier, safer and more affordable alternative &ndash; Princess Square in Esher, London&rsquo;s most salubrious commuter haven and home to footballers. Princess is the ultimate attempt to replicate the London square only with more security and privacy. It combines the historical grandeur of London squares and the atmosphere of a luxurious gated development in one of Spain&rsquo;s ritzier parts. But rather than upwards of &pound;6m, a spacious property on this square will start at &pound;1m and a townhouse will cost you &pound;2.75m. <br /><br /><strong>TOTALLY SECURE</strong><br />Alex Herman, partner at Knight Frank in Esher, which is selling the Princess Square development, says: &ldquo;Essentially the whole project has been centred around appealing to buyers from London. Young, City types who are living out this way but commute to London, downsizers, footballers, anyone that wants the quality without the burden of a rambling property.&rdquo; The architecture has very consciously been modelled on that of a Georgian London Square, but there&rsquo;s CCTV around the whole development and a porterage. Herman says: &ldquo;In London it&rsquo;s different, you can&rsquo;t just block off areas, squares are more accessible to the public. Here we can make it a totally secure development.&rdquo;<br /><br />The idea, says the estate agent, is that &ldquo;it has the community feel and layout of the London square, which works so well in London but is rarely replicated&rdquo;.<br /><br />Princess is no ordinary development &ndash; the homes are converted mansions, formerly homes of royalty and the upper echelons of aristocracy. Milbourne House, which is to be converted into nine three-bedroom apartments, was built by a Northumbrian baron and presented to Princess Charlotte in 1816. It was considered by the Princess to be &ldquo;one of the finest estates in England&rdquo;. So rather than drab, well-appointed modern dwellings situated around a green patch, buyers can expect original high ceilings, cornicing, large bay windows and landscaped gardens to rival any in London. Charlotte Terrace, a row of six luxury townhouses with private landscaped gardens and garages, is where the developers have most studiously sought to capture something of London&rsquo;s most august squares.<br /><br />But where most city squares stop at the idyllic configuration and sought-after location, Princess is to provide a gym for residents and a media and games room. In essence, it&rsquo;s an upgraded version of Connaught Square, Bloomsbury Square and Eton Square. The only thing you&rsquo;re missing is being in London itself.<br /><br /><strong>22 CONNAUGHT SQUARE, W2, &pound;2.8M</strong><br />South-facing, 3,188 sq ft, six-bedroom family house overlooking gated gardens.<br /><br />Contact: Kay &amp; Co. on 020 7262 2030 or visit www.kayandco.com <br /><br /><strong>PRINCESS SQUARE, ESHER, &pound;1M-&pound;2.75M</strong><br />New gated development of remodelled stately homes in the style of a London square, with flash security and a communal feel.<br /><br />Contact: Knight Frank on 01483 564660 or visit www.princesssquare.com