Lymington, with its picturesque setting on the south coast and attractive Georgian buildings, is almost the perfect English town. It is also ideally sandwiched between the New Forest National Park and the waters of the Solent, and as a result enjoys a thriving tourism and yachting scene.

Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslie is a local resident, and the boating industry, focused around the town’s two busy marinas, brings a sporty vibe to the area. Lymington becomes particularly busy during the summer regatta season, which peaks during Cowes Week in August. As one of the longest-running regattas in the world this annual fixture is also the largest global sailing event of this kind with an estimated 100,000-plus spectators.

“Lymington has retained a lot of historic character and the marinas are a big draw for second-home buyers, many of whom are also boat owners,” says Rob Batten, director of local property agency Spencers. “We’re seeing a lot of people relocating from London and elsewhere in the south-east, and downsizers who want to live in a thriving community.”

Batten says the well-regarded local schools, including independents Durlston Court and Walhampton, are also attracting well-heeled families. Buyers generally want to own in the area known locally as “south of the High Street”, where the most desirable properties are located. The roads here are leafy and have retained the feel of a rural village, with tall hedgerows and plenty of green space. Key streets include Grove Road, Church Lane and King’s Saltern Road, with their mix of properties dating from the 18th to mid-20th century.

Prices start at about £350,000 for a small, two-bedroom cottage or apartment, with three to five-bedroom Georgian town houses for sale for between £500,000 and more than £1m. Larger detached properties with four to six bedrooms cost from £750,000 to about £3m.

“People will pay top money for the right location, one or two roads below the High Street,” says Batten. “But a lack of supply means property there is outperforming other locations and fuelling price rises. Over the past 12 months they’ve been edging towards 10 per cent. The average in the New Forest area is around 5 per cent per annum.”

South of the High Street, off Waterford Lane, John D Wood is marketing an imposing contemporary residence in an enclave of just five homes, priced at £1.5m. It has six bedrooms, a secluded landscaped garden and a double garage.

Those with less to spend are now looking farther from the centre, to where prices are about 10 to 15 per cent lower. These include Lower Pennington, a short drive west of the centre, and the streets north of town, off busy Southampton Road. Local agent Spencers is marketing a renovated thatched cottage dating from the 1700s on South Street, in the Pennington area, for £895,000. The three-bedroom property has beamed ceilings, open fireplaces and a large garden.

Because Lymington is outside the New Forest National Park, development rules are less strict and a good deal of fairly uninspiring infill has been allowed over the decades. There is a large number of standard postwar semis and bungalows, alongside the occasional individual new house or small new-build estate.

Batten says, in his experience, clients are not really interested in high-density developments but want something with character and a garden. “They are interested in the town for its active lifestyle, location and rural charms,” he says. “Buyers typically include high-level bankers, businesspeople and lawyers with around £2m to spend on a house.”

Into that price range recently dropped Lymington Shores, the biggest new-build scheme in town, which is currently under construction. The site is metropolitan in style and overlooks the Lymington river, on land that was once a chicken-processing factory.

Before its approval, some local residents and conservation groups claimed the development would be too tall, could increase traffic congestion and was not in keeping with the town’s heritage. There was even a reference to it being a “Benidorm bolt-on”.

The developer, Redrow, made some concessions, including redesigning a number of exteriors and reducing the planned density, and sales are now well under way. “Lymington’s identity is very much that of a historic town and in any location like that, modernity isn’t always welcomed and it’s normal to see a level of resistance,” says James Barnes, southern counties sales director at Redrow. “But a lot of people, local business owners for example, can see the benefit of an influx of wealthy residents.”

Barnes claims interested purchasers know and love the town, and says there have been inquiries from a mix of second-home owners and those planning to relocate to Lymington permanently. “There isn’t much new stock in Lymington, and Lymington Shores offers exactly what a lot of buyers are looking for here: contemporary quality with old-town charm. There is no comparable development in this area.”

In the 18 months since the launch of the first phase of 120 available apartments, 38 have so far sold at prices from £250,000 for a one-bedroom unit to £1.2m for a two-bedroom penthouse. Detached villas will be made available later this year, priced from £1.5m for a property measuring 195 sq metres to £2m for a 251 sq metre home.

Despite local fears that new development will encroach on the town’s historic character and sailing-chic ambience, Barnes is certain there will not be further large-scale housing projects. “Lymington is a prestigious location and will remain so. It won’t change that much,” he says. “There is neither the appetite nor space to allow it.”

10watt Track Light

● Average house prices in Lymington were £381,440 over the past year. The majority of sold properties were detached homes with an average price of £556,156

● Lymington has two train stations but both are on a branch line, which connects via Brockenhurst to London Waterloo in about two hours, and to Southampton in 30 minutes

● There were 177 reported crimes in Lymington in May, up from 118 offences during the same month last year

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