Buying a house on a country estate: London commuter homes on stately piles as little as 60 minutes from the capital

Anyone who has ever dreamed of living on a glorious country estate now has an expanding choice of properties to consider.

Owners of stately piles are following in the steps of Prince Charles and diversifying into housebuilding.

So your choice could include his Duchy of Cornwall schemes, homes on an estate in the surfers’ paradise Newquay, or the Earl of Moray’s project near Inverness.

Blenheim, Oxfordshire

A so-called “landowner legacy” project at Blenheim is intended to show that landowners have social, economic and moral responsibilities to deliver homes for the local community.

The Duke of Marlborough’s 2,000-acre Oxfordshire estate, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, had a modest property portfolio of farmhouses and cottages dotted around the grounds at various times over the past 20 years.

These have been weekend haunts for media moguls and members of the “Chipping Norton set” such as Elisabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud. Now the estate is embarking on a substantial housebuilding programme.

Blenheim: nearest train station is Oxford Parkway (Paddington 1hr 17mins); annual season ticket is £5,152

Burghley: nearest train station is Stamford (King’s Cross 1hr 13mins); annual season ticket is £7,384

Luzborough Green: nearest train station is Romsey (Waterloo 1hr 37mins); annual season ticket is £5884

Fairford Leys: nearest train station is Aylesbury (Marylebone 1hr); annual season ticket is £4,188

At the end of this month, Blenheim will launch its new project, Park View.

Sitting on the edge of the popular town of Woodstock, north of Oxford, it’s a development of 300 homes made up of a mix of one- and two-bedroom flats as well as two- to five-bedroom traditional-style houses. A further 800 homes are in the pipeline.

Prices at Park View start from £470,000 and 14 have been reserved off-plan (01993 811881).

Romsey in Hampshire and Burghley House, Lincs

Lord Mountbatten’s grandson, Timothy Knatchbull, has developed 56 new homes at Luzborough Green, on the edge of the market town of Romsey in Hampshire where prices start from £415,995 through Winkworth (01202 623420).

And Burghley House has developed Cecil Square in Stamford, Lincolnshire — a collection of 48 three- to six-bedroom houses built in local stone.

A few remain, priced from £649,500 through Savills Cambridge (01223 347 000).

Stamford station is a four-minute walk with services to London taking an hour and 30 minutes.

The new generation of landowners

According to property director of Blenheim Estates Roger File, gone are the days when locals “doffed their caps to the landlord. These days respect has to be earned. Estates can be a force for good and put themselves at the centre of the community.”

Four minutes to the station: Burghley House has developed Cecil Square in Stamford, Lincolnshire

But there’s another aspect in play, believes Rob Hindle of Rural Solutions, an advisory firm that assists landowners in aspects of diversification and development. 

“The new generation of landowners are, in general, happier to use debt as part of their business plan. And while borrowing is so cheap and demand for rural housing so strong, there’s an appetite to be more entrepreneurial alongside a desire to do something useful with their assets.”

Fast broadband is vital

Blenheim is working with locals to assess what community elements are needed for today. They are also retaining all the affordable housing and offering a greater discount than a typical housing authority would — up to 40 per cent of market value.

“Oxfordshire is one of the most expensive areas of the country to live in. Even with a discount of 40 per cent they only just begin to fall into the realms of affordability,” says the estate’s Roger File.

According to research carried out by ADAM Architecture, the 18 to 34 generation have a greater tendency to work for themselves and while they might commute one or two days a week, most of the time they work from home.

For this generation, it’s all the more important to have a well-built house with fibre optic broadband — and if there’s some affordable co-working space nearby, even better.

A wise investment

In a study called Value of Community: Building a Legacy, published by the University College of Estate Management last month, properties in developments with a strong design code often increase faster in value. 

Examining house values in both the Prince of Wales’s project at Poundbury in Dorset and Fairford Leys on the edge of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, built around the same time and with a similar vision of community-driven walkable space, both have proved more robust than equivalent properties on neighbouring housing estates.

In particular, resale properties in Fairford Leys have attracted a nine per cent premium over the Aylesbury second-hand market. Connells is currently marketing a three-bedroom house for £375,000 (01296 395710).

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