Where to buy your first home: top schools, the best areas and properties for first-time buyers in Thurrock, Essex

Why first time buyers are moving to Thurrock, Essex.

Average first-time buyer spend: £276,650.

Annual price increase: 4.9 per cent.

Proportion of homes sold to first-time buyers: 37 per cent.

The commute: Purfleet to Fenchurch Street takes from 33 minutes. An annual season ticket costs £3,564.

Schools: Attention to detail is crucial for parents, or would be parents, because standards are variable with several schools in the district not up to scratch according to Ofsted. However there are some “outstanding” options too, including Quarry Hill Academy in Grays, Harris Primary Academy Mayflower, in Chafford Hundred, and Harris Primary Academy Chafford Hundred.

What’s new? Over the next 10 years Thurrock council is planning a £6.6 billion investment in the district. This will include spending £1 billion reinventing dowdy Purfleet as Purfleet-on-Thames, with a riverside esplanade of pop-up shops, bars and restaurants, plus two new schools, almost 3,000 homes, a health centre, a film studio and a new park. Meanwhile, a proposed second port at Tilbury would give a much-needed boost to the local economy.

The lowdown: the north bank of the Thames Estuary is probably best known for the monster Lakeside shopping centre, but with 20 miles of mainly industrial waterfront land its potential to provide overflow housing for London has long been recognised. Chafford Hundred, for example, is a new town created since the Eighties.

The largest town is Grays, with its theatre, yacht club and Art Deco cinema, soon to be converted into a new bar. Matthew Cheeseman, a partner at Owen Lyons estate agents, says buyers like its affordability and good transport links, including being close to the A13 and M25, plus trains to London. Property ranges from two-bedroom turn-of-the-century cottages for about £250,000, to three- to four-bedroom Thirties semis priced at about £385,000.

Downsides: Lakeside has drained the life out of the rather bleak centre of Grays — and of most other Thurrock options. So a planned upgrade of Grays shopping mall and its centre cannot come soon enough.

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