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Train lines reopening unlocks new frontiers for the housing market

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For the people of the Blyth Valley, it’s payback time. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £34million fund to start to reinstate the passenger rail line between Newcastle and Ashington.

This is seen by many as a reward for being the first constituency to breach the ‘red wall’ of seats extending across the Midlands and North of England in the 2019 general election, which gave Boris Johnson his victory. Yet it is far more than a cynical political gesture.

‘Re-opening that line in 2024 will have a massive effect on the area’s economy,’ says James Middleton, a regional partner with Garrington Property Finders.

Iconic: The Tyne and Swing bridges of Newcastle. The government has announced a £34 million fund to start to reinstate the passenger rail line between Newcastle and Ashington

Iconic: The Tyne and Swing bridges of Newcastle. The government has announced a £34 million fund to start to reinstate the passenger rail line between Newcastle and Ashington

‘It will mean two-way regeneration with people living near the line commuting more easily into Newcastle for work and vice versa. 

‘This is sure to be good news for the property market, which has been flat-lining.’

The project will assure that the line, which is currently only used for freight, is refurbished and new stations opened in Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park in North Tyneside.

This is an area that has struggled since the closure of the coal mines in the late 1980s, with high unemployment and rundown town centres. Yet, it is far from being on the scrap heap.

Northumberland-born legend Sir Bobby Charlton

Northumberland-born legend Sir Bobby Charlton

A former mining town, Ashington has societies for every activity that is traditionally associated with the North East, including leek growing, whippet racing and pigeon fancying.

It is the town that produced Northumberland’s three greatest footballers: the Newcastle hero Jackie Milburn and the Charlton brothers, Jack and Sir Bobby.

‘We are close to the most glorious wild and unspoilt coastline and only a 15-minute drive to the Northumberland National Park,’ says local estate agent Mike Rogerson. 

‘That rail line is going to bring a huge boost to the area in terms of housing, employment and education.’

It is today’s house prices that are the main attraction. 

In Ashington, the average property sold for £119,000 last year, according to Rightmove.

A terrace cottage on average costs £78,000; a semi-detached £132,000 and a detached would be £196,000 —which is reasonable even by Northumberland standards.

There is a five-bedroom newly built Charles Church home for sale for £320,000 in Carnoustie Close, Seaton Vale, Ashington. 

It has an open-plan kitchen dining room opening onto the garden; two of the bedrooms are en-suite and there is a double garage.

The Ashington to Newcastle line is the first of a collection of lines the Government is considering reopening as part of the Prime Minister’s pledge to reverse the legacy of Dr Richard Beeching, the former British Rail Chairman, who in closed more than 2,300 stations in the Sixties.

Another ambitious rail project – targeted for 2025 – is a direct service between Bicester and Bletchley as part of the better link between Oxford and Cambridge.

This will see two trains an hour running between the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire towns.

A link was opened between Oxford and Bicester in 2016.

This is likely to bring about yet more expansion to the boom town of Bicester. Marked as one of the new ‘garden towns,’ it is a key area of growth with some 13,000 homes in the pipeline.

An excellent location is the town’s core attraction, being near the M40 which links to Birmingham and London. It is also a commuter town for Oxford, just 15 miles away.

A mix of the old and the new, Bicester has a bustling market every Friday, while for those seeking retail therapy (post-lockdown) there is Bicester Village shopping centre, which attracts three million visitors a year.

Average prices in Bicester range from £275,000 for a terrace house to £288,000 for a semi-detached and £433,000 for a detached, according to Rightmove.

And like the towns on the Ashington to Newcastle line, prices are expected to spiral when the new line is finished. Our rail links should never be overlooked.

On the market… on the Newcastle Line

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No reasons recorded for low rates of successful speeding prosecutions

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Fewer than one in five people prosecuted in court for speeding offences are being convicted, new data shows.

With a national average of just over 16 per cent, data covering a three year period between 2018 and 2020 shows conviction rates ranging from 7 per cent recorded in Co Mayo to 24 per cent in Co Wexford.

In total, of almost 60,000 court prosecutions, fewer than 10,000 concluded with a ruling against the driver.

While separate statistics show that 8,325 cases (14 per cent of total prosecutions) were either dismissed or struck out by judges, no information is available as to why.

“The Courts Service system does not record the reason a case was struck out unless the Judge includes the reason in their order,” Minister for Justice Helen McEntee told Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy who had sought recent information around mobile phone use by drivers.

“As such, the Courts Service does not hold complete statistical information on the reasons for any case being struck out.”

Fundamental issues

However, Parc, the road safety advocacy group which has analysed the data, said such a gap in knowledge is among a number of fundamental issues it is to raise with senior garda management and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in a forthcoming meeting.

“If we don’t know the reason why [cases are being thrown out] then how are we ever going to fix it,” said chairwoman Susan Gray.

“Why are they failing in court, why so many, why are some areas like Mayo recording so few convictions, why is no one looking into this? In Mayo where the RSA is based, [there was a conviction rate of] 7 per cent over three years.”

The counties with the four major cities – Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick – accounted for 24,387 prosecutions, or 41 per cent of the total, and had a conviction rate of 19 per cent.

Outside of those areas, the counties with the highest number of speeding offences ending up in court were Kildare (6,948), Louth (2,600), and Wexford (2,055). Despite being an outlier in terms of prosecution rates, Kildare saw a conviction rate of just 10 per cent, the third lowest of 26 counties.

Conviction rates were the highest in Wexford (at 24 per cent) but three quarters of prosecutions still fell down for whatever reason. Following Wexford, drivers were most likely to be convicted in Dublin, Donegal, Longford and Westmeath (each 22 per cent), Louth (21 per cent) and Limerick (20 per cent) but no other county reached the 20 per cent mark.

Drivers were far less likely to see a conviction recorded against them in Mayo (7 per cent), Meath (8 per cent) and Kildare (10 per cent).

Catherine Murphy said the data raised a number of issues and exposed a traffic penalty system in need of greater consistency and cohesion.

“There can be a huge differential depending on what court you end up in and that shouldn’t be the case,” she said. “You would expect to see this [conviction rate] almost the reverse way around.”

She said there was no reason why data should not be recorded that shows why prosecutions do not proceed, or fail and that the overall road safety enforcement system required a less fragmented approach.

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BNP Paribas REIM acquires Barcelona office building (ES)

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BNP Paribas REIM acquires the iconic office building “Tanger 66” located on 66 Calle Tanger, in the 22@ District in Barcelona, from Blue Coast Capital. This asset is an emblematic building and an architectural landmark in Barcelona, with a total surface area of 7,211m². It is strategically located in the 22@ District, which is one of the most sought-after office area in Barcelona and a European hotspot. The District 22@ is a neighbourhood that used to house industrial sites before becoming one of the most important urban renewal projects in Europe and being rehabilitated to provide modern and elegant offices designed to meet the needs of businesses. The neighbourhood is now composed of more than 1,500 companies specialised in IT, energy, design, media or scientific research and is considered today as a space for constant innovation.

 

The “Tanger 66” building was re-developed from a textile factory into the first LEED Platinum office in Barcelona by Blue Coast Capital. It is composed of 4 floors and an 800m² terrace garden in the upper floor. It offers modern working spaces with training areas, collaborative spaces, computer laboratories, an auditorium and a cafeteria. The building benefits from an excellent connection to public transportation with metro, tram, bus and train stations only a few minutes away. It is fully let to Hewlett Packard.

 

Jean-Maxime Jouis, Global Head of Fund Management for BNP Paribas REIM commented: “This acquisition strengthens the BNP Paribas Diversipierre fund portfolio and fits perfectly with the fund’s strategy by adding a modern asset, fully let and located in a strategic location in Barcelona. In addition, the building is certified LEED Platinum, therefore it respects the funds’ commitments and more generally the environmental issues targeted by BNP Paribas REIM, whose strategy is to accelerate its funds’ goals in terms of ESG.”

 

Fraser Denton, Managing Director, European Real Estate for Blue Coast Capital said: “I am delighted for BNP Paribas REIM in finalising this transaction. Our re-development of T66 is an excellent example of Blue Coast Capital’s focus on creating exceptional real estate and is a leading example of real estate repurposing whilst achieving the highest level of LEED Certification.”

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House prices shot up £25k in a year in November 2021, ONS says

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Property prices surged 10 per cent annually in November 2021, according to the latest official figures.

This marked a small increase in price inflation compared to October, when prices grew by 9.8 per cent, the Office for National Statistics’ house price index shows.

The average house price was £271,000 in November 2021, which is £25,000 higher than the same time last year.

Climbing: The average UK house price increased by £25,000 in the year to November 2021

Climbing: The average UK house price increased by £25,000 in the year to November 2021

The figures confirm that house prices continued to climb, even after the stamp duty holiday finished at the end of September 2021.

The tax break, which lowered home buyers’ bills by up to £15,000, contributed to rapidly rising prices after it was introduced in July 2020.

This was despite the cost of a home increasing by £10,000 more than the maximum tax break.  

The number of housing transactions taking place also increased in November, growing by nearly a quarter compared October according to HMRC.

However, it was 16.4 per cent lower than the number of transactions in November 2020.

This suggests that the slight dip in October following the end of the stamp duty holiday may have been a temporary blip.

Rise: The rate of house price growth ticked up in November compared to October

Rise: The rate of house price growth ticked up in November compared to October

The average UK house price has increased dramatically since the pandemic started

The average UK house price has increased dramatically since the pandemic started

Phillip Stevens, director of Richmond estate agency Antony Roberts, said: ‘It was business as usual in November as property prices rose again following October’s dip, which came about following the end of the stamp duty holiday. 

‘There is plenty of evidence that buyer demand remains strong, especially for houses, and with relatively little stock available it is a house seller’s market.’

However, experts said that the spectre of rising inflation and increases in the cost of living could serve to dampen the housing market later in 2022.

On the market: This four-bed, three-bath detached home in Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire, is on the market with Hackney & Leigh with an asking price of £745,000

On the market: This four-bed, three-bath detached home in Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire, is on the market with Hackney & Leigh with an asking price of £745,000

In Trowbridge, Wiltshire, this five-bed is listed for £610,000 with agents Kingstons

In Trowbridge, Wiltshire, this five-bed is listed for £610,000 with agents Kingstons

Buyers in Largs, North Ayrshire, Scotland can snap up this four-bed, two bath detached home for £299,000. It is listed with estate agents at Corum

Buyers in Largs, North Ayrshire, Scotland can snap up this four-bed, two bath detached home for £299,000. It is listed with estate agents at Corum

This Victorian three-bed is marketed with Starkings & Watson in Norwich for £375,000

This Victorian three-bed is marketed with Starkings & Watson in Norwich for £375,000

This two-bed cottage near Hereford is being sold by Chancellors with a £210,000 guide

This two-bed cottage near Hereford is being sold by Chancellors with a £210,000 guide

This depends to some extent on whether there are further increases in the Bank of England’s base rate, which would likely push up the cost of a mortgage.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: ‘There is further speculation that the Bank of England will raise interest rates by 0.5 per cent at its February meeting in order to counter rising inflation, and it remains to be seen what impact this will have on buyer confidence.

‘Squeezed affordability would be an issue, preventing first-time buyers in particular from getting on the ladder.’

Looking at the different countries of the UK, house prices increased 9.8 per cent over the year in England to reach an average of £288,000.

In Wales they grew by 12.1% per cent to £200,000, in Scotland by 11.4 per cent to £183,000 and in Northern Ireland by 10.7 per cent to £159,000.

The South West was the region with the highest annual house price growth, with average prices increasing by 12.9 per cent in the year to November 2021. This was up from 10.8 per cent in October 2021.

The lowest annual house price growth was in London, where average prices increased by 5.1 per cent over the year to November 2021, down from 6.7% in October 2021.

Despite being the region with the lowest annual growth, London’s average house prices remain the most expensive of any region in the UK at an average of £520,000.

Locations: Regionally, the South West saw the highest house price increases at 12.9%

Locations: Regionally, the South West saw the highest house price increases at 12.9% 

The North East continued to have the lowest average house price at £149,000, but prices still increased 8.7 per cent in the year to November.

The fact that the number of homes on the market is much lower than the number of interested buyers is another factor continuing to drive up prices, along with Britons’ desire to change their living arrangements due to the pandemic.

Nick Leeming, chairman at estate agent Jackson-Stops said: ‘Last year proved to be an astonishing year for the property market, with prices and demand defying expectations set by the pandemic in January. 

‘Whilst today we see average house prices up slightly from those recorded in October, the figures still reflect lack of supply in the market and are therefore impacting levels of demand in the year to November 2021.

‘It is evident that this imbalance between stock and demand will continue to underpin housing activity in coming months. 

‘This is reflected by what we are seeing across our branches where the complex and ongoing changes to the nation’s working patterns and lifestyle aspirations have only heightened the importance Britons place on owning a home.’

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