Having its cake: Eccles records fastest rise in house prices in the UK

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Eccles, on the west side of Manchester, has been named as the property hot spot of 2020, with prices rising faster than anywhere else in Britain, according to the property website Rightmove.

Centred around Monton Road, the once nondescript suburb has been transformed into an urban village thanks in part to improved Metrolink tram connections and the BBC moving many of its operations to nearby Salford.

Average asking prices in Eccles increased by 16% from 1 January to 14 December. The typical property is priced at £213,706 compared with £184,299 at the start of the year.

Eccles is one of three Manchester suburbs in the top-five fastest rising areas of 2020, with the other two also in the north of England. In a dramatic reversal to rankings in previous years, a wealthy London commuter town, Sevenoaks, was named by Rightmove as the location where the average price fell the steepest during 2020., falling from £693,569 to £681,069.

High-paying local employers such as the BBC, good public transport connections to the city centre, affordable property, a high street dominated by independent business rather than chains and nearby open-air amenities, such as a hugely popular repurposed former railway track, have all helped the Eccles area thrive, say local residents.

“Ten years ago it was just a very dull high street, with one rundown pub and not much going on. Now it’s a brilliant street full of independent businesses, cafes and bars. A lot of people are calling it the ‘new Chorlton’,” said Joe Rushton, who co-founded the Urban Village Eatery in 2019.

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Chris White of local estate agent Barlow White said 12 years ago he sold a terraced property for £80,000. “I wouldn’t let you have it for less than £300,000 now. It’s not all Coronation Street up here like so many southerners think. There’s a very wide spectrum of properties. I wouldn’t have thought Eccles itself is up 16% this year, it’s the Monton and Ellesmere Park areas, which are up 25% this year, which have dragged up the local average.”

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Ellesmere Park is home to large Victorian villas that regularly fetch more than £1m, while the cheapest apartments in Eccles start at £87,500 for a one-bed. Towards Monton Road, some two-up, two-down terraces are on the market for close to £200,000.

Abbie Clayton, who runs a bakery business, Abbie’s Kitchen, from her home, said the area had transformed during her 15 years in Eccles. “You used to see groups of young people hanging about with nothing to do and you didn’t really want to head out on to the high street. But now it’s a really nice place to go out, it’s completely changed,” she said.

Customers snap up her cupcakes and sweet treats – but curiously not the cake famously associated with the town. “I make Eccles cakes, but I don’t really sell many of them,” Clayton said.

Amid the pandemic, many people in Eccles cite the “Loopline” as a vital urban lung during the successive lockdowns. It is a traffic-free walking and cycling route along a former railway track that starts in Monton and runs towards Bolton. “It was crazy during lockdown, it’s just a really nice place to take a walk,” said Rushton.

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“A lot of young people who maybe bought their first apartment in Salford Quays are now reaching family age, and this is where they want to move to,” he added.

Will the forces of gentrification change the character of the area? Lynsey Keates recently took over the butty van by the canal from its previous owner of 17 years. “The Monton Van is a local landmark. It’s true the area has gone a lot more upmarket. We’ve changed the menu a bit, we do more healthy options. But it’s still a very warm local community, people really do say hello on the street and really did support local businesses during the lockdown.”