Lightbulb moment for Developers?

A lightbulb moment for Developers?

Going electric by 2040 will deal with the health problems caused by air pollution and meet our climate change targets, said environment secretary, Michael Gove, yesterday.

It strikes me that if this is to be achieved, as a bonus we may start to see some of our fine pre-petrol properties start to shine again – and not just with clean frontages.

Road classification in the UK began in 1923 less than 40 years after the first motor car was patented by Karl Benz in Germany.  ‘A’ roads were naturally created from major bridle ways and many of our busiest roads date back to Roman times. 

Great North Road - Highgate
Great North Road, Highgate C.1750

The A15 for example runs from Peterborough to Lincoln and through settlements listed in the Magna Carta. It includes the straightest stretch of road in Britain (21 miles) which gives clues to Roman heritage.  The Great North Road was the historic route from London, via York, to Edinburgh and the modern A1 parallels much of this stretch.

Linking settlements and passing others, the closer one lived to the coaching route the more convenient.  Noise, pollution and the infernal combustion engine  weren‘t even considerations until the mid-20th Century but the population explosion and the commonplace ownership of cars after World War II started to push new homes a little further back from the gutter.   The front garden became popular and the convenience of access was disregarded as property values started to reflect distance from the main road.

Might we start to see these tables turn if we are to have silent streets and air even purer than the horse manure aromas of old? 

A Compulsory Purchase of land when the M25 was built meant a family I knew on a farm in Kent suddenly had six lanes of fast moving traffic between the house and the apple orchard – the harvest suddenly to be collected by tractors crossing motorway bridges.  How many of us have driven past properties in both towns and cities and suggested – “that’s a lovely house but it’s such a pity it’s right on the road”?

Talgarth Road, Gunter Estate London W14

As a Londoner actively working within the sphere of property, development and its marketplace I consider areas that stand to recover some former glory.  The properties on the Gunter Estate, Hammersmith where today, fabulous period townhouses and artists’ studios dating from the 1800’s stand largely devalued by the highly polluted A4.   

Esher By-pass (A3)
© Google

A substantial property on the Esher Bypass (A3) once as a hotel has been desolate for many years and this is the case of similar buildings up and down the country.   With the eventual domination of the EV can these residences anticipate a new lease of life?

By the time we are transported on foot by tranquil white travellators, and cruising around in driverless, noiseless, fuel-less, cars; living wholly Disney Pixar Wall-E-style – our health issues due to a lack of exercise rather than air quality – my greatest concern will be that the road network doesn’t uproot the foliage planted above me.  So no, it won’t happen overnight but one day, people countrywide will wake up and realise ‘their’ road just isn’t as noisy or smelly as it was and from there it will get better and better. 

Timescales are unknown and judging investment growth over term is clearly important, but to my mind Developers all over the country, particularly on a small, one property at a time, scale are well-advised to stay tuned to the appetite for e-motoring, the strength of incentives provided to own an EV, the response of the National Grid once any initial panic has subsided, the speed with which charging points will start to appear at major junctions and service stations and of course for technology that elongates drive time.

The future is clean and serene and driving is returning to the doorstep of affluence.

Caroline Copland is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a business development and marketing professional providing consultancy services and interim solutions across all sectors.  Specific experience in Property, Professional and Financial Services, Product Marketing, Retail, Artisan Foods and Fine Wine.

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