Park Life

Flint cottages and Georgian houses harmonise with modern dwelling in England’s newest National Park.

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Retaining its natural heritage as well as keeping a sharp eye on the future is one of the reasons why the South Downs National Park offers such enticing value for Sussex homeowners.

A pleasing melange of historical houses – thus explaining the plethora of antique emporiums to kit them out – and the latest cutting-edge homes offers good choice for buyers, many of whom are benefitting from price growth.

According to Knight Frank, the South Downs (which opened in 2011 and also extends to Hampshire) is England’s most expensive national park. The average property price of £674,000 is nearly double the £350,000 national average.

Savills Research estimates that the average South Downs National Park home attracts a hefty premium of 57.6% over houses beyond the park boundary, recording a 20.1% upward shift in values over the past five years.

It’s not surprising that people are happy to escape suburbia for a ‘clean and green lifestyle’, but the views and scarcity of stock in key villages means prices are holding up, says Strutt & Parker’s Paul Machell in Chichester.

He’s witnessed a trend in people looking for ‘more bang for their buck’, while retaining a pied-a-terre.

In the capital. ‘This is the type of buyer with a home office and three-day commute, so the kids can have fantastic lifestyle.’

Savills’ Daniel Clay in Petworth points out that due to the increase in homeworking days, fibre broadband is as evident in many villages as quaint teashops and charming old world pubs.

Daniel says newbies to the area can expect to pay about £400,000 for a period cottage in a desirable location, £600,000 for three bedrooms and £2 million plus for a larger house with at least two acres of land.

His colleague Sophie Wysock-Wright in Haywards Heath believes another plus for purchaser is the fact that West Sussex is fast into a mini Napa Valley.

The likes of Rathfinny, Nyetimber and Bluebell wine estates are producing world- renowned sparkling vino, and Lewes’s Plumpton College conducts research and teaches the principles of production in its wine centre.

Oenophiles and wine workers are hunting for old and new homes in the area, Sophie remarks, ‘They love overlooking the Downs, but know they can easily walk to coffee shops and restaurants in ‘little London Lewes.’

The second-home market is active up to the £1.25 million mark too, argues James Brine of Strutt & Parker Haslemere. Some international buyers desire a bolthole here – ‘they think Sussex is close enough to London.’

Although most homeowners appreciate the high level of protection afforded to views wildlife and cultural heritage in the Park, renovating a fixer-upper or erecting a new home can come with restrictions.

House finder Mark Crampton of Middleton Advisors explains that the South Downs National Park authority has a great degree of control when it comes to assessing planning applications.

‘This doesn’t mean development’s completely impossible,’ he says, but buyers are well advised to understand any restrictions on building within the Park before committing to a purchase.

You’d be wise to check out the commute as well before you set your heart on a particular property, suggests Garrington Property Finder’ Danny Rowland.

‘Determine which stations and journeys work for you. And beware of stations with poor parking, trains where you can’t get a seat, and junctions where slow trains outnumber faster ones.’ He says.

As there isn’t much scope for new development in the Park itself, savvy buyers hunt for contemporary projects in the fringes. You tend to pay less money on the frontiers but you’re still close to the coast and rolling hills.

There’s also a great deal to be said for living in an up-to-date, draught- free new home without any initial upkeep, while relishing horse riding, hunting, sailing and long walks with the dogs in the nearby green space.

A clever ‘halfway house’ is investing in a renovated listed building in the Park, such as City & Country’s King Edward VII in Midhurst, where smart apartments are being created in a former Sanatorium. Kate Parker of City & Country describes this as ‘an unusual opportunity to buy a new home in the South Downs that comes with 165 acres of grounds including restored Gertrude Jekyll gardens’.

Residents get all mod cons and services – think concierge, gym, pool, café, shop and tennis court – but can walk right out onto National Trust land and the timeless Downs.

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Whether you plump for a genteel, period farmhouse or an easy-care, brand-new abode, residing in or adjacent to the South Downs National Park presents the best of both worlds in town and country living.