19 July 2002

Island prices play catch up with mainland

By Andrew Shirley

PROPERTY prices on the Isle of Wight are fast catching up with mainland values, though few farms are coming forward to test the market, according to local agents.

"The gap is closing," reckons Andrew King of Newport-based Creasey Biles & King. "Five years ago prices were similar to west Devon, now they are more like those in Dorset or Wiltshire." But nothing substantial has really been sold for the last couple of years, says Mr King.

"Lenders are happy as residential values are buoying up total values and farm business tenancies have also helped," he adds, although partner Sam Biles says few have been agreed over the past 18 months. "Farmers were keen on them, but there has been a period of consolidation."

However, for farmers wanting to step down from large scale production, two small agricultural properties, both priced at £1.25m, are currently available. Mr King is selling Godshill Park Farm, a 190-acre organic holding, in conjunction with fellow local agent Christopher Scott.

Owners Gill and Dick Steele purchased the property, which includes a seven-bedroomed period house, in 1996 and since then have built up a steady flow of diversified income. Mrs Steele says a holiday cottage generates about £11,000/year, and spring wheat and barley, as well as organic lamb, are sold for a premium over conventional crops.

For producers looking for more acres, Mr King says he could also supply up to 600 acres of nearby high-quality arable soil. Similar land with irrigation has been making around £2600/acre.

Close to historic Carisbrooke Castle, Hose Rhodes Dickson, another of the islands agents, is launching Plaish Farm, having enlisted the help of nationwide operator Strutt & Parker.

The 90-acre unit, which includes 50 IACS-registered acres, has been the home of Peter Huckle for the past three years. But after renovating the 17th century six-bedroomed house and buildings, the software developer has now decided to seek fresh challenges in New Zealand.

It would be hard to imagine a more sympathetic restoration – Mr Huckle has even used original lime wash on the interior walls – and agent Richard Dickson reckons it will go to a non-farmer. "If I were a betting man I would say Plaish will be bought by somebody who will work in London for four days and then come back to the family for the rest of the week."

Mr Dickson says the Isle of Wight, despite its accessibility – London can be reached in less than three hours – offers a more relaxed lifestyle and still retains a good sense of community. "People have time for you and there is the feeling in the rural community that there is less crime here." &#42

Plaish Farm, near Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.