Lilian Baylis school, a comprehensive in Kennington, has transformed itself in recent years. Today, it is one of the highest regarded schools in south London, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, the education regulator. In 2003, when the school was located at nearby Lollard Street and only 6 per cent of its pupils achieved five or more GCSEs graded “C” or above, the then shadow home secretary and local resident Oliver Letwin said he would “go out on the streets and beg” to avoid sending his children there.
Over the same period, the local property market has changed a great deal too — house prices have risen 135 per cent in real terms since 2003, according to Land Registry data — but social tensions remain.
The former site of that school is now the Baylis Old School development, a scheme of 149 homes, and Wren Mews, which includes 36 social housing properties. The projects came under fire in March, following accusations that the children of wealthy and less-well off residents had been segregated by blocking the social housing homes from using a communal play area. The hedge separating the playground has since been taken down. The area’s struggle with gentrification, however, continues.
“We don’t really do shops here,” says Priscilla Baines, head of Kennington Residents Association. “We do estate agents and coffee bars and that’s about it.”
For some, though, that sounds just the ticket. “People are drawn in by the village-y feel of the place,” says Tom Floyd, an estate agent at Winkworth. The appeal is that many families can buy larger Victorian and Georgian homes in Kennington that, north of the river, they might not be able to afford.
On Kennington Road, Daniel Cobb is marketing a four-bedroom Georgian terraced house for £1.895m. A similar home in Islington, might be priced a £1m higher. On Pratt Walk, near the Imperial War Museum, Winkworth is selling an 18th-century townhouse with four bedrooms for £1.595m. A two-bedroom apartment on Stannary Street is for sale with Lauristons for £1.25m.
Prices have been boosted in recent years by the huge Nine Elms project on the south bank of the Thames, says Robin Chatwin, head of south-west London at Savills. “Call it the Battersea effect, the Apple effect, whatever you want,” he says, referencing the fact that the US tech company is scheduled to locate its new headquarters in the redeveloped power station. “Being so close to all of these huge developments undoubtedly pushed up prices in places like Kennington and Oval.”
Although prices rose rapidly — prices per sq ft jumped 31 per cent between the first half of 2013 and the first half of 2016, to hit £790, according to LonRes — since then they have dropped again, down 5 per cent to £749. At the same time, transactions have slumped, with sales in 2018 down 38 per cent on 2017. “Prices came up so much here that they were bound to fall more dramatically [than the London average],” says Chatwin. “The market is correcting itself.”
Prices may have fallen, says Ian Boardman, an estate agent at Daniel Cobb, but he expects them to remain stable for the foreseeable future, kept afloat by steady demand. There is some evidence the downturn is slowing: the average reduction buyers achieved last year off a home’s initial asking price in Kennington peaked at 9.7 per cent, according to LonRes. In the first half of this year it was 5.8 per cent.
Even if demand is steady, there is a lot of supply in the pipeline. Not only will the Nine Elms development bring about 20,000 or so new homes to the wider area by 2030, but other high-end new housing schemes are taking shape in Kennington itself.
Near Oval station, Berkeley Homes is about to break ground on a development of more than 1,300 apartments called Oval Village. Its tag line is “it’s an Oval thing” but local residents like to point out that, looking at the plans, it is clearly “a rectangular thing”. Apartment prices in Phoenix Court, the only section of the development that has launched, will range from £632,000 for a 562 sq ft apartment to £979,000 for a two-bedroom flat with a balcony overlooking Kennington Lane.
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The demolition of two of the three gasholders currently occupying the land has irked locals, however. Gasholder 1, built in 1847 and which looms over the Oval cricket ground, is the only one set to survive, albeit in a different form. Its skeletal frame will soon be filled in with flats, much to the annoyance of the Victorian Society, Save Britain’s Heritage and a number of other pressure groups.
“A lot of us don’t like the scale of it all,” says Baines. She acknowledges that new homes need to be built — Lambeth has 28,000 people on its social housing waiting list — but has concerns over the density of the development and whether it will put too much pressure on the existing infrastructure. “It’s not illegal, of course, for developers to want to maximise their profits,” she says. “But it’s not very neighbourly”.
- The average price of a house in Kennington last year was £1.427m
- Kennington is in the London borough of Lambeth, where the council tax charge for a mid-level (band D) home is £1,445 per year
What you can buy for . . .
£400,000 A one-bedroom flat in an ex-local authority block
£1m A three-bedroom terrace house near Oval tube station
£1.8m A five-bedroom townhouse near Kennington Park
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