What is it about Solihull that makes it the best place to live in England?
Overview: Famous as the home of Jaguar Land Rover, the affluent commuter town of Solihull was recently named as the best place to live in England in a study by uSwitch, which rated factors like local wages and working hours, weather, and cost of living.
Where is it? One of Birmingham’s satellite towns, eight miles south east of the city centre.
How much will it cost me: The average asking price stands at £334,294, up 5.13% (£16,328) in the last year:
Faye Bottle, branch manager of R A Bennett and Partners said demand in the town is healthy - the problem, as with so much of the UK right now, is a lack of stock. As well as people moving around Solihull, Ms Bottle’s clients include people moving out of central Birmingham and its suburbs (often for the schools) and she's even noticing a trickle from further afield. “We get a lot of people from London who can buy something much cheaper here and commute,” she said.
What the experts say: Mark Bartley, director of Bartley’s Estate Agents said Solihull’s popularity stems from its leafy feel, quality housing stock, excellent schools and excellent transport links. It has plenty of chain stores (including a John Lewis) plus independent shops on the high street giving a nice mix.
Prime locations in Solihull include the suburbs of Dorridge and Knowle where £700,000 would buy a fine four-bedroom detached house. The area also has a good sprinkling of new developments, with four-bedroom houses priced at £450,000 to £500,000.
In the town centre a three to four-bedroom semi would cost £400,000 to £500,000, while a two-bedroom flat would cost £250,000 to £300,000.
For buyers looking for value for money Carly Baker, branch manager of Dixons estate agents recommends Dickens Heath, three miles from the town centre. This is a modern development beside the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal which, when complete, will have more than 1,600 homes. It already has a modern high street with shops, restaurants and cafés, and a popular primary school. A three bedroom semi-detached house would cost around £250,000.
Any downsides? Perhaps a tiny bit stuck-up (locals are judged by whether they pronounce the name of their town So-lee-hull (posh) or Solly-hull (less so) and prices are stiff by Midlands’ standards. There's a lack of good restaurants right in the centre of town, although the suburbs of Dorridge and Knowle have some excellent places to eat and drink.
Top schools: Education standards are almost universally excellent. Peterbrook Primary School and Knowle CofE Primary Academy are both rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, as is Tudor Grange Academy (seniors).
Transport links: The M42 and M40 provide swift road links to London and Oxford while there are direct trains to Birmingham (15 minutes) and London Marylebone (one hour, 48 minutes) from Solihull Station. Birmingham International Airport is on the doorstep.
Landmarks: The Grade I listed St Alphege Church dates from the 16th century – hard to miss thanks to its 168ft spire.
Where to eat, drink and make merry: Solihull’s excellent Indian restaurants include Spice Club and Panchuli, or head to the nearby village of Barston for great pub food at The Malt Shovel. For nightlife, the cocktails at Missoula are recommended and there are plenty of traditional pubs, but for clubbing all roads lead to Birmingham.
Retail therapy: Masses of chains at Mell Square (which will also have an ice rink this Christmas) and high end boutiques at the Touchwood Shopping Centre.
Trivial pursuit: Solihull is home to The National Motorcycle Museum which houses the largest collection of British motorcycles in the world.
What's on the Market?
1. This detached family house is on the market for £595,000 with Fine & Country. The spacious property has four bedrooms, four reception rooms, and a large garden with a covered dining area for al fresco meals.