All the details on living in Southampton

Ocean Village

Ocean Village - Credit: Archant

There’s a sniff of celebration and expectation in the air as Southampton marks its 50th anniversary as a city - but what is it like to live here? Emma Caulton finds out

Southampton is on the up. Perhaps the most obvious evidence of this is the surge of enthusiastic development along the waterfront. Stand at one end of Ocean Village, overlooking the Itchen and the skyline, both behind in Ocean Village and across the water in Woolston, is scratched with cranes.

The property market still offers good value. Last year Southampton topped the list as the most attractive city for property investors in the UK (as researched by HSBC). This position is supported by reasonable prices and a strong local rental market buoyed up by two universities; but that’s not all Southampton has to boast about. As a port city and the cruise capital of the UK, communication links are exemplary. Southampton airport, with flights to a range of UK and European destinations, is just on the outskirts, the mainline station provides a good, regular service to London, and there are motorway links to both the M3 and M27.

In spirit, Southampton has quite a young vibe. Clubs and live music venues include The Brook, The Joiners and Talking Heads and at the other end of the scale Turner Sims is considered one of the finest concert halls in the country for classical, jazz, folk and world music. For theatre, The Mayflower stages big name shows while The Nuffield is a producing theatre delivering edgy performances – check out the inaugural Fulcrum Southampton this month exploring the balance between art and science. Ocean Village’s Harbour Lights picture house is a great cinema experience and arty types can visit internationally renowned Southampton City Art Gallery and the John Hansard Gallery, which specialises in contemporary art (its current exhibition Ship to Shore explores art and the lure of the sea). And, of course, Southampton’s waterside location means there’s a plethora of sailing, rowing and kayaking clubs for the active. It’s hardly surprising that the Boat Show moors up here every September.

A strong shopping experience encompasses WestQuay shopping centre, home to the likes of John Lewis and Zara, a retail park with useful megastores, Ikea looming like a giant bright blue Lego brick, and independents in Bedford Place and Portswood. Eating out is dominated by Oxford Street: Southampton’s stylish restaurant quarter, its bistros and wine bars spilling out convivially across the pavements.

Families can enjoy acres of common and parkland – this is one of the greenest cities in the country. Schools are sound, too. The private offering is dominated by King Edward VI, The Gregg and St Mary’s College. Across the state schools there is a broad tranche of primary schools graded Good and two or three secondary schools, including Redbridge Community and Bitterne Park, have even earned the accolade Outstanding; Chris Packham’s Richard Taunton sixth form college has also been rated Good.

The leafy ‘burbs do well, too. Hythe, on the other side of Southampton Water, attracts families with its consistently good schools and proximity to the expanses of the New Forest. Hedge End appeals with its new developments of family homes and its schools impress, too. Both Wellstead Primary School and Wildern Secondary School are rated Outstanding.

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Overall Southampton’s housing runs the gamut from studio apartments at just £60,000 to grand houses in Chilworth for more than a million. Chilworth, Highfield, Bassett and Upper Shirley are considered the prime residential areas, but others such as Bitterne Park offer great value for money. As for the future… the money seems to be on the waterfront.

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3 to see

Chilworth Road, Chilworth £1,040,000

Five-bedroom house with half-an-acre plot of land

Morris Dibben, Southampton, 02380 228822

***

Oxford Street, Southampton £419,950

Attractive Grade II listed townhouse

Pearsons, Southampton, 02380 233288

***

Denbeigh Gardens, Bassett £385,000

Three-bedroom family home in a cul-de-sac location

Goadsby, Southampton, 02380 225412

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Agent talk

Simon Edser - Morris Dibben, Southampton, 02380 228822

“Southampton attracts the whole spectrum of purchasers from premiership footballers to solicitors, as well as academic and medical staff as the hospital and universities are a big draw. People come here from all over the country and from all over the world. There are lots of major businesses here, like Carnival (perhaps better known for its brand names P&O and Cunard), the commercial port, and this year Lloyds Register is relocating its head office to Southampton as part of a collaboration with Southampton University.

Very occasionally you get commuters moving from Middlesex, say, attracted by the low prices and proximity to the coast, but most move here to work in the area.

Southampton offers value for money (especially compared to Winchester’s silly prices). It’s known as a hot spot for letting and some landlords are buying here from out of the area.

The areas attracting purchasers include Chilworth, Bassett, Highfield and Upper Shirley. But some are prepared to go further east to Netley, Hamble and Warsash, which are near the city and on the coast…or to Botley and Durley which are close to the countryside, yet within striking distance of the city centre.

There’s a feeling of renewed confidence about Southampton. The waterfront is undergoing a rejuvenation; there’s even been talk of a seven-star hotel in Ocean Village. Even the success of Saints in the premiership helps.”

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