We swapped Greenwich for a modular, new-build home near Cambridge | Evening Standard

2022-06-15 14:34:02 By : Ms. Vicky Lee

Fed up of the poor air quality in London, this family left their Greenwich home and bought a customizable house on the edge of a lake in Northstowe.

Rebecca Wright, Lawrence Zeegan and their five-year-old daughter Zoë

awrence Zeegan, 58, and Rebecca Wright, 49, were living happily and comfortably in a modern, stylish, three-bedroom, three-storey townhouse in Greenwich, south-east London with their five-year-old daughter Zoë. Then came the pandemic – and they decided to sell and move out of the capital.

“One of the biggest contributing factors was our daughter’s health,” explains Lawrence. “Air quality in Greenwich isn’t fantastic, and we were very aware that our property wasn’t a million miles away from all the traffic from the Blackwall Tunnel.”

Rebecca adds: “We had always thought we would move out of London eventually, maybe in five to 10 years’ time. But when the pandemic hit, we began to wonder what we were waiting for.”

When Covid restrictions lifted in summer 2020, the family spent their weekends driving out to nearby cities to see what was on offer. Sadly, during this time Lawrence was diagnosed with cancer. “We were very much housebound, more so than we might have been had Lawrence not been recovering,” says Rebecca.

“But it absolutely helped us to have something to work towards and it became a really important goal for us to find somewhere that was right for us as a family.”

Their top priority was being within commuting distance of the capital. Rebecca works near King’s Cross and Lawrence was working in Greenwich at the time, so they both needed easy access into the city. They also wanted to be close for social reasons. “The pandemic didn’t make us fall out of love with London, but it did make us bolder in deciding what we needed as a family,” says Rebecca.

The couple didn’t want to move away from city life entirely, which is why Cambridge was a top contender. “We both work in design education in universities,” says Rebecca. “Being a university town, Cambridge felt really alive. It’s got an international, young, ambitious feel to it here, as well as a beautiful history.

“You’ve also got the Science Park and biotech companies which are attracting people who are part of the future. We didn’t want to feel like we were retreating from London life, nor did we want a quieter life, we just wanted a different one.”

Disappointed by the housing stock on offer in central Cambridge, they came across a new development by House by Urban Splash in Inholm, Northstowe, a new town 12 miles north of the city. “We wanted to look for unconventional properties that would provide the opportunity for a different way of living and would allow us to invest in interesting architecture,” says Lawrence.

“Northstowe and House by Urban Splash immediately appealed and we put down a reservation fee on our new three-bedroom, three-storey Town House home overlooking the waterpark on the first weekend in September 2020.”

The family bought a three-storey townhouse at the Inholm development near Cambridge for around £600,000

The couple sold in London for £900,000, buying at Inholm for about £600,000. The £2,000 plot reservation fee, non-refundable had they not proceeded, was taken off the purchase price on completion.

“The homes are designed with a focus on the importance of space, natural light and adaptability,” adds Lawrence. “They really have been considered as spaces to live and grow old in.” Rebecca adds: “The house is modular and flexible so, as our family changes we can very easily alter the layout. It’s also a lot more efficient to run than the average new build. It feels like a responsible, as well as an enjoyable, way to live.”

Since moving in December last year, Rebecca finds her commute, although longer, much more enjoyable. She travels to London two or three days a week, using the guided busway from the Inholm scheme to Cambridge North station. From there, it’s a direct one-hour train into King’s Cross, then a five-minute walk to work. An annual Cambridge North to King’s Cross season ticket costs £5,592, while a flexi season ticket is £331.10 for eight day passes. A five-day guided busway flexi ticket is £16.80.

“My journey is a lot less stressful and I always manage to get a seat, so the time spent travelling is so much more productive than when I used to commute from Greenwich,” she says.

Lawrence had planned to drive into Greenwich for work, but a new job offer late last year means he now drives 100 miles to Birmingham City University twice a week. He used to cycle to work in under 10 minutes when living in Greenwich.

The family swapped a home by the Blackwall Tunnel for one overlooking a lake at the new Cambridge development

“My eco-credentials aren’t what they once were,” he says. “I now drive to Birmingham on Monday morning, stay overnight, come back Tuesday evening and sometimes go back in again on a Thursday or Friday.”

They clearly love their new way of life in Cambridge and have no regrets about relocating. “We’ve bought a house on the edge of the development with views over a lake,” says Rebecca. “The water park has lots of seating, cycle paths and picnic areas and Urban Splash is running a series of events to help introduce the community to each other. There’s a play area, a shared garden, communal bike sheds, a viewing platform to congregate in the shade – and we can now walk Zoë to school, which is in the heart of the community here.”

The family relish the more relaxed lifestyle and say a close community is already forming. “The last few years have made us realise these are things we value and want to be a part of,” says Lawrence.

“We’re enjoying long family walks, the sense of openness and space both outdoors and inside our wonderful new home, and we’re looking forward to making new friends in the area and putting down roots here.”

For more information about the development at Inholm, Northstowe, visit housebyurbansplash.co.uk

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