That waterside properties have become so popular is surprising, when you take all the floods into account. You would think people would be seeking homes on top of mountains by now.
I don’t know when, exactly, a home with a view over water became an object of desire but when we bought our sea front house seventeen years ago its proximity to the sea was not mentioned in the advert at all. I first spotted a black and white picture of part of it in the local property rag, a blurred shot of the front door and surrounding brickwork, looking like a house on an [admittedly well kept] council estate. It was not until we made a trip to view the exterior that we realised only a road and a zig-zag cliff path separated it from the beach.
Since then we have seen a gradual but accelerating rebuilding of the properties along our road, every family home that is demolished being replaced by an apartment block, the plans endorsed by a council eager to meet the government’s targets for new homes, as well as satisfy the clamorous desire for living by some water. There is nothing wrong with apartments. In most heavily populated parts of the world they have become the solution to housing. Almost everyone living in Hong Kong has a lovely view of Victoria Harbour, albeit sandwiched in a flat somewhere within a forty story plus block.
The UK is not short of homes. There are many empty houses. They are in places like Stoke on Trent, where last August there were 5,000 empty ones. Terraced hovels can be bought for £1 provided certain conditions are met, but don’t get romantic ideas of stupendous views or chocolate box cottages because you have to renovate them, live there for five years and find some kind of employment in order to get a door on to the street and maybe a back yard. I’d have settled for that for a first home, though.
So as more of us want to squeeze into any, tiny gap by a river, lake, harbour or beach, less of us want to take up residence in a dilapidated back-to-back terrace in a rundown northern industrial zone.
There are rumours that here, along the seafront, the last remaining pub-hotels are due to be demolished, presumably to make way for still more apartment blocks; the revenue from such developments more than any publican, hotelier or hotel chain could make in their wildest dreams. Two more, nearby hostelries have been developed into flats in the last two years and another is ‘pending’. What’s next, as the availability of land in desirable areas becomes less? My vote goes to football pitches, and then to churches and churchyards, followed closely by betting shops, snooker halls, MacDonalds, Little Chefs and Pizza Huts…unless you feel differently?