What makes a perfect London garden? Sara Ransom of Stacks Property Search says, “In prime London, a flat, square, well-screened garden facing west or south west, with the width of the house opening directly onto it, makes a near perfect arrangement.
“But increasingly popular amongst London buyers are the Capital’s garden squares – all the advantages of outside space, but none of the trouble of looking after it. This is of course particularly attractive to buyers who are only part time residents, who are older and prefer someone else to do the work, and just the mega-busy.
“Garden squares are a wonderful thing, but buyers should be aware that not all are equal. The range of service charges is wide, and generally speaking garden squares are run by committees, and with committees come rules! So as a careful buyer, check what you are and aren’t allowed to do.
“Some are very relaxed, regularly host residents’ events, and allow all the kinds of things you would normally expect to do in a garden – barbecues, parties, ball games, walking the dog, sending the children out to play – the usual stuff, but others are more restrictive. Many allocate different areas for different activities with children’s play areas, wilder areas for dog walking, and special places for ‘quiet contemplation’. Some of the rule books are pretty archaic, so are being updated to reflect more contemporary lifestyles. Don’t think you can swerve the rules – it won’t go down well with your new neighbours.
“The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has over a hundred garden squares, over half of which raise an annual levy which is collected as part of the council tax charge. But while Kensington and Chelsea probably have the highest number of garden squares, other areas such as Wandsworth, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Islington, and North Kensington have some lovely gardens too.
“While it’s generally straightforward who does and doesn’t have access to a garden square, it’s important to check. In most cases, the occupiers of every house or building, the front or sides of which face or form part of the square will be entitled to residents’ access. Tenants should be careful – just because the landlord has right of access doesn’t necessarily mean the tenant will.
“Ladbroke Square Garden in W11 is an interesting variation. Anyone who lives within 100 yards of its railings can join. It’s managed by a private trust, there are 650 members who pay £200 per year service charge, three local primary schools use the garden, and there are regular annual events for members. The seven acres are fabulous, there’s a quiet lawn bordered by lovely rose arbour, a football area, a tennis court, somewhere for dogs to walk and play.
“Garden squares are great for practical reasons, but they’re also wonderful for London residents who want to get to know their neighbours. They’re excellent neutral space where conversations can start and people can get to know each other in an informal way.
“Buyers should expect to pay a premium for a good garden square, but while a garden square property is generally around 20% more expensive than its similar neighbour, some of that premium can often be attributed to the fact that garden square properties tend to be more prestigious properties in prestigious spots.”
Stacks Property Search & Acquisition, 01594 842880 / www.stacks.co.uk
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