Yorkshire’s “golden triangle” was hit hard by the global economic downturn, but for signs that the area is coming back to life, look to the car market as well as the property market.
Rolls-Royce has announced plans to open a dealership in Leeds, its first in the region, to cater for the wealthy concentrated in the area between the city, York and Harrogate. This triangle is home to some of the UK’s richest people and there are now enough of them to justify the investment, says Trevor Finn, chief executive of Pendragon, which will operate the store.
“There is demand for super-luxury motor vehicles in this part of the country,” says James Crichton, regional director of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Europe. Bentley already has a showroom in Leeds.
There is also demand for high-end property in the triangle, particularly in the smart market towns of Wetherby and Tadcaster, as well as busy villages such as Weeton, Poppleton and Hammerton. The area has been popular for years among professionals working in Leeds thanks to the fact that much of it is less than 30 minutes by train from the city centre. It is a commute that will become more comfortable with the electrification of the lines due to take place over the next few years.
York is less than two hours from London, with Leeds two hours and 15 minutes. Early Monday morning trains are packed with those who have held on to jobs in London for the higher wages while taking advantage of lower house prices in Yorkshire.
The average home in the golden triangle costs £280,000, about two-thirds that of the London average. In the past two years many people who have Yorkshire roots or been educated there and then moved to London are returning to the area, attracted by the value for money it offers and the quality of life, says Jeremy Hopkinson, an estate agent in Harrogate.
Hopkinson is selling a detached barn conversion in an acre of land in the Nidderdale Valley for £995,000. The four-bedroom home has a farmhouse kitchen with an Aga, a stable and paddock for horses, and its own pond.
Those who are tempted to make the move will be struck by the beauty of the area. The triangle offers rolling hills and historic preserved villages. Some, such as Ripley near Harrogate and Harewood, north of Leeds, remain largely owned by aristocratic families and look much as they did centuries ago. Harrogate still has its spa and a 200-acre park called the Stray at its heart that can never be built on.
Yet there are modern amenities too. York’s tourist trade — more than 7m visitors a year — helps support a shopping area far bigger than a city of 200,000 would normally require. There are also top restaurants, such as the Star Inn the City, a venture by Andrew Pern, the Michelin-starred chef of the Star Inn at Harome in North Yorkshire. Its balcony overlooking the river Fosse is the perfect place to sip a cool glass of prosecco or a pint of Pilsner. Leeds is home to Opera North, the Northern Ballet, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and a fast improving restaurant scene.
Even Harrogate is “not the blue-rinse town it was in the 1980s,” says Hopkinson. There are still stalwarts, such as Bettys tea room, where waitresses in traditional uniform serve afternoon tea, but you will also find a new Everyman cinema and a comedy festival that takes place every October.
The number one factor for families relocating is the schools, though. Harrogate Grammar and St Aidan’s are popular state options, along with several private schools, such as Leeds Grammar and Harrogate Ladies’ College. Boarding schools Sedbergh, Ampleforth and Giggleswick are within an hour’s drive.
Transaction numbers are still low, says Nick Talbot of the Jackson-Stops & Staff in York. “Given the last 12 months or so, with the (EU) referendum, instead of choosing to move many have held back,” he says.
His agency is marketing a country house made up of two 17th-century dwellings near Wetherby racecourse for £2.35m. It has six bedrooms, plus a two-bedroom self-contained flat and 26.5 acres of grounds.
For those who wish to embrace country life fully there is the seven-bedroom Wilstrop Hall in Green Hammerton, marketed by Savills. It has 132 acres of pasture and woodland and a traditional barn with development potential. It is on the market for £2.75m.
“The prime market recovered previous peak values a couple of years ago and has remained strong since,” says Ben Pridden, head of Savills in York. “My rule of thumb is that if we haven’t received an offer on a house within a month it’s generally because we’ve got the price wrong.”
Georgina Dowling, 36, gave up a career with City law firm Linklaters to move back to Yorkshire. She found a job at Addleshaw Goddard in 2011 and has since been made a partner and had two children. She bought a five-bedroom home in Harrogate for the price of a one-bedroom flat in central London. “I loved my time in London but my work-life balance was more important than money,” she says.
Dowling still travels to London to meet clients — she has more FTSE 100 clients now than she did before the move. “I still get that city buzz and I have the Dales on the doorstep.”
Andy Bounds is the FT’s north of England correspondent
Photographs: John Devlin; Ian Dagnall/Alamy; James Copeland/Alamy
• Public transport is sporadic in villages. Roads can be congested and most are single carriageways
• Choose York or Harrogate if you regularly want to shop and eat out
• In the villages expect to become part of tight-knit communities, mucking in at village fetes and the like. If you have children, do your research on schools
• Expect modest price growth — property prices have risen just 1.3 per cent in the past 12 months, and are 15 per cent above the pre-recession peak a decade ago
• Dress for the weather. The picture-postcard countryside of rolling hills and dry stone walls can be obscured by mist and rain. The east side of the Pennines is drier than the west around Manchester
What you can buy for . . .
£300,000 A three-bedroom Victorian terrace within the city walls of York
£1m A four-bedroom barn conversion in Weeton, a commuter village for Leeds
£1.5m A newly built, detached home with five bedrooms in Harrogate within walking distance of the town centre
More homes at propertylistings.ft.com
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