Good transport links into the city and a £50 million seafront regeneration scheme has caused a new influx of London commuters to put the Essex costal town of Southend-on-Sea in the spotlight. Article by Ruth Bloomfield, published originally on homesandproperty.co.uk
Southend went into decades of decline after cheap package holidays took British families off to sunny Spain.
However, an influx of London commuters is breathing new life into this old-fashioned Essex seaside town, and it is enjoying some impressive price rises. Ambitious regeneration plans, including a new seawater swimming lagoon and a £50 million seafront upgrade, will seal its appeal to buyers keen to live on the coast and make use of good transport links to the capital.
The town’s average house price of £285,926 is up more than £50,000 in the last six months, says Rightmove. Richard Hair, senior partner at Hair & Son estate agents, says: “People don’t come here on holiday any more and Southend isn’t full of bedsits and day-trippers. It is becoming a bit more sophisticated.”
The seafront, with the world’s longest pleasure pier at 1.34 miles, is the focal point for regeneration. Turnstone Estates is planning the huge development to include a cinema, 10 restaurants, a hotel and leisure centre.
The tree-lined artificial lagoon, a separate plan, will allow swimming when the tide is out — instead of having to trudge over what feels like miles of brown gunk to paddle at low tide. It is hoped work can begin imminently.
Links to London
Southend has three train stations. The Central and East stations have 40-minute services to Fenchurch Street, while the journey from Southend Victoria to Liverpool Street is less than an hour. An annual season ticket costs £4,648. London Southend airport has flights to Spain, France, Paris, Germany, the Balearics and Portugal — perfect for weekend getaways.
London families tired of the school places struggle will find grammar schools in Southend. Ofsted rates Southend High School for Girls and Southend High School for Boys “outstanding”.
The watchdog finds the standard of infant and junior schools in the area more variable. However, Bournes Green infants and junior schools both receive top marks. They are in Thorpe Bay, three miles east of the centre of town, which Alex Somers, residential sales consultant at Dedman Gray, says is a hotspot for family buyers.
About 40 per cent of his clients are Londoners looking for affordable homes and a better way of life, mostly second or third steppers with equity behind them. Somers says the entry price in Thorpe Bay is £500,000 for a three- or four-bedroom semi. Most homes in the area were built in the Fifties, Sixties or Seventies. Seafront homes command a premium, and a six-bedroom detached Victorian or Edwardian Southend house would cost about £1.3 million. There are also modern trophy homes springing up locally, at £2.5 million-plus.
Late Victorian three-bedroom terrace houses in the town’s conservation area sell for £650,000 to £700,000. This district of neat homes near Southend Central station and Southend Cliff Gardens has seen 10 per cent year-on-year price rises. “The big problem we have is lack of stock,” says Richard Hair. “It is a very strong sellers’ market.”
The coastal lifestyle
Within the wider area, a two-bedroom flat in a large Edwardian semi in Westcliff-on-Sea would cost up to £150,000, with a three-bedroom terrace house at about £220,000. In Leigh-on-Sea, three miles west of central Southend with lots of dress shops and wine bars, a three-bedroom terrace is £350,000, rising to £500,000 the closer to the sea.
Southend-born Gabriella Griffin commutes daily from Thorpe Bay to Camden, where she is a senior accounts executive at Frank PR. “I’m training for a marathon and I get home from work and run along the seafront,” she says.
Many of her Southend friends go out on Friday night in London then come home for the weekend. She recommends The Estuary and The Vine for eating out, both in Leigh, which also has antiques, vintage and jewellery shops, little boutiques and cafés. Along Southend seafront new restaurants are joining the old-school fish & chip shops.
You can walk for miles along the coast, attend a class at arts project Metal, see contemporary art at The Forum, learn to sail at the Marine Activities Centre, join one of five yacht clubs or the tennis club, or go horse riding in Belfairs Park. And Southend is a principal location for next year’s Wonder Woman movie, starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot. She and co-star Chris Pine — Capt James T Kirk in the new Star Trek films — were recently seen filming in town.