Buying in Nunhead: Peckham’s sensible sister has new flats, family houses and 20-minute trains to the City
Nunhead does not share in the heady rebranding of its hipster sister Peckham. Nor does it have the pretensions of its other neighbour, yummy-mummy East Dulwich. It’s part of Nunhead’s charm that it just rolls on with its peaceful, villagey vibe.
Local improvements have been slow and steady and there are no big estates to regenerate or industrial sites to repurpose.
It is Southwark’s sensible suburb — with one recent blot on its copybook. If there was an award for the worst-built new homes in Britain, the grim tale of the flats at Solomon’s Passage would certainly make the shortlist.
These 85 flats, completed just seven years ago, were so woefully bodged that they have stood empty for most of their lives. Two blocks are now considered fit only for demolition.
Green Acre Homes (South East), the original developer, commissioned and oversaw their build, then went bust in 2011. Wandle Housing Association spent public money buying the site in 2012 only to realise, having installed tenants, that something was terribly wrong.
The worst flats were damp, insulation almost non-existent, the roof and balconies were failing, the site was liable to flood and there was substandard fire protection for the timber-clad blocks.
Nunhead’s biggest new housing development
Southwark council had granted planning consent for the four low-rise blocks off Peckham Rye and its officers signed them off as conforming to national building regulations. But last month, after a long impasse, Southwark’s finance chief Victoria Mills announced plans to buy and redevelop the site.
Most of the small estate is likely to be pulled down and the council plans that half the new homes on site will be let to people on its housing waiting list while the rest will be sold to help pay for the project. Then Nunhead will have its biggest new housing development in living memory — eventually.
Drawing a veil over all that, Nunhead residents show great loyalty to the area.
“I moved from East Dulwich to Nunhead and it is much nicer,” says Stacy Kaur, associate director of Roy Brooks estate agents. “It has a really good community feel, there are loads of events for children on Nunhead Green, the community centre has so many classes, and it is just all lovely.”
She feels Nunhead’s slow emergence as a family-friendly spot means there aren’t the same social tensions as in other, more dramatically gentrified areas.
“Everyone is still on a level,” she says. “Nobody thinks they are better than anyone else.”
Open space includes eerily beautiful Nunhead Cemetery, also a nature reserve, and Peckham Rye, which forms a dividing line between Nunhead and Peckham.
But if Peckham is all youthful types drinking at Frank’s Bar and talking about their new start- up ventures, then Nunhead is very much the sensible big sister, the place hipsters go when they grow up and want to have a family and go to bed at a reasonable hour.
Living in Nunhead: the lowdown
Most of Amy Sancourt’s buyers are thirty- and forty-something families looking for a home to grow into.
Sancourt, sales manager of Wooster & Stock estate agents, particularly recommends the double-fronted homes in Carden or Tresco Roads.
Overall, the price of period homes in SE15 shot up over the past five years as buyers flooded in from more expensive areas, from an average of £388,000 in 2014 to £544,000 today, an uptick of 40 per cent.
A three- to four-bedroom Victorian or Edwardian terrace would cost £800,000 to £900,000, while a two-up two-down cottage would be about £600,000.
Quality local schools bring in families. All the local primaries hold “good” Ofsted reports, and St Thomas the Apostle College (seniors) is “outstanding”, says the schools’ watchdog.
Nunhead area guide
Younger buyers, says Amy Sancourt, tend to be Bank of Mum and Dad-funded, and a two-bedroom period conversion would cost £400,000 to £450,000. A similar-sized property in one of the area’s purpose-built blocks would cost £350,000 to £400,000.
Younger buyers are more concerned with the commute than school standards, and a trip from Nunhead, in travel Zone 2, to either Victoria or Blackfriars takes less than 20 minutes.
What all buyers like about the area is its beating heart.
The widest selection of new homes currently available at prices to suit young buyers is at Nunhead Green (nunheadgreen.site-sales.co.uk), where housing association One Housing is selling flats and houses in a boutique scheme. Flats are priced from £430,000 and houses start at £980,000.
Nunhead Green is a world away from the hectic chaos of Peckham Rye, and the open space and shops have recently been the focus of a £1.1 million smartening-up project.
Here, locals buy supper from FC Soper Fishmongers, check out The Beer Shop, or pop in for a drink or a Sunday roast at The Old Nun’s Head.
Newer arrivals include pizza joint 400 Rabbits, where you can “style your own ice cream sundae” and drink prosecco on tap.
“New things are popping up all the time,” says Sancourt.
An essential stop on any tour of Nunhead is The Ivy House, billed as the capital’s first co-operatively owned pub. The sudden forced closure of the pub back in 2012 sparked an energetic local campaign to raise £1 million to buy it and save it from redevelopment. It now has 371 mostly local shareholders, and hosts live music, DJs, film screenings, and comedy.