Big Battersea

As you pass the construction site of Battersea Power Station — with its fleet of cranes along the Thames and intense security — it is difficult to imagine how this part of south-west London might be transformed when the redevelopment is complete.

Fortunately there are snippets of text on a fence protecting the site that will help you. “Battersea Power Station must come across as both an icon and an intimate place,” reads one; it is accompanied by a CGI of the station glowing in the sunrise. “At one moment monumental and awe-inspiring, at the other browsable and fine-grain.”

One of the largest regeneration projects in Europe, the power station and Nine Elms area has commanded more attention than any other London development since a Malaysian consortium bought the long-neglected 42-acre site for £400m in 2012.

Yet coverage of the £8bn redevelopment of the city’s newest quarter has been less than rosy. London’s cooling housing market and an oversupply of high-end property have affected Nine Elms more adversely than other central areas. There are 54,000 homes priced close to or above £1m that are planned or under construction in the city, according to research company LonRes. In 2014 only 3,900 homes in this price bracket were sold. Almost 30 per cent of new-builds in Nine Elms have been on the market for more than a year, compared with 12 per cent in prime districts.

“Our worry is that towers have been built everywhere without much thought,” says Richard Marsh, a partner at buying agents Property Vision. “You only have to drive down Embankment in the evening and look [across the Thames] at how many lights are on in these towers and you’ll see: not many.”

With all eyes on the power station, it is easy to forget that this is just one pocket of Battersea. Though the completion of the first phase of the redevelopment of Nine Elms is still about a year away, the project is already having an impact on the larger Battersea district.

Walk on from the Nine Elms hinterlands and across Queenstown Road and you will find a 200-acre oasis. A decade ago the 200-acre Battersea Park underwent a £11.4m renovation that restored many of its features form the Festival of Britain in 1951. There is a bandstand, children hurtling around on bikes, and a notice inviting the public to a nearby pub to “celebrate the life” of Izzy, a late Staffordshire terrier.

Nine Elms is one of three distinct markets within Battersea, says Jonathan Dyson, area sales director at Hamptons International. North Battersea, along the Thames and surrounding the park, is more aligned with Chelsea across the river. For decades, little has changed in terms of demographics. “There’s a lot of old money in north Battersea.”

Here some of the most desirable property is in the Victorian red-brick mansion blocks overlooking the park. A two-bedroom, second-floor flat in Albany Mansions is on sale for £1.29m through John D Wood & Co.

South Battersea — the area flanked by Wandsworth and Clapham commons — is also undergoing a transformation, according to Dyson. Northcote Road, one of the main arteries running through the area, is fast becoming the “Kings Road of the south”. Also known as “nappy valley”, the road is dotted with branches of upper-end high-street brands and independent shops.

“If you wander up and down Northcote Road in the day it’s all prams and buggies,” says Dyson. “As soon as 7.30pm comes, they disappear and it’s all up-and-coming people in their late twenties and early thirties drinking rosé in the summer.”

Beyond its bars and restaurants, buyers are attracted to south Battersea for its streets of pretty Victorian terraced houses, and its proximity to good schools, both state (Honeywell and Belleville) and private (Newton Prep). Knight Frank is marketing a five-bedroom terrace house on Manchuria Road for £2.2m.

In the past three years property prices in SW11, the postcode covering north and south Battersea, have risen 33 per cent, outperforming prime central London, where prices grew 18.6 per cent in the same period. But how much can be attributed to Nine Elms? “Areas of regeneration do have an impact on the surrounding areas,” says Anthony Payne, managing director of LonRes.

When it opens in 2020, the Northern Line extension will bring two new Tube stations to the area, while Battersea Roof Gardens, designed by the same landscape architects behind New York City’s High Line, will add more green space — both factors are likely to boost home prices, say local agents.

An off-plan, six-bedroom penthouse apartment on the 10th floor of the Riverlight development in Nine Elms, with access to a pool, is on sale for £8.99m through UK Homes Enterprise.

While the chance to live in a new home might appeal to some, it comes at a price. Properties in Nine Elms have commanded a 45 per cent premium compared with the rest of Battersea over the past year, says LonRes.

“Often people are pushed towards a new development as a good investment, but we think people should concentrate on the [surrounding] area,” says Payne. New-build homes can be more susceptible to market volatility, he adds. “If you look at the second-hand Victorian stock, you might find there’s a better investment there.”

A short walk from the Riverlight development is a grade II-listed house with seven bedrooms, a large garden, triple garage and gatehouse on sale through Savills for £9.92m. The former Beaufoy vinegar distillery may not come with views of the Thames but, since it was built in the 19th century, prospective buyers can at least be sure it is of a limited stock.

Buying guide

● The borough of Wandsworth has one of the lowest council tax rates in London

● The Nine Elms development will comprise 20,000 new homes, 600,000 sq metres of office space and a new retail district

● One Nine Elms will be one of the tallest residential buildings in Europe, with two towers of 60 and 45 storeys

What you can buy for . . .

£1m A three-bedroom, Victorian-era maisonette on Northcote Road

£5m A new, five-bedroom townhouse with a garden next to Battersea Park

£10m A six-bedroom penthouse in the Battersea Power Station development


Link to the FT online