Families queue for ex-RAF homes

Assuming spring has sprung, the next three weeks may not be too much of a hardship for Jane Algar.But if winter comes back for a visit, it will become a grim wait for Mrs Algar and her half a dozen neighbours that they only have canvas to protect them from the elements as they wait for a rare chance to step on to the housing ladder.

By ED FOSS

Assuming spring has sprung, the next three weeks may not be too much of a hardship for Jane Algar.

But if winter comes back for a visit, it will be a grim time for Mrs Algar and her half a dozen neigh-bours, as they only have canvas to protect them from the elements while they wait for a rare chance to step onto the housing ladder.

When the doors of the office dealing with the sale of 48 former MoD homes at RAF Coltishall opened yesterday, there were already eight prospective home-buyers waiting, prepared to camp and live in caravans for 19 nights to secure their chance of home ownership.

The level of interest in the homes, which have been renamed Annington Fields by property agents Annington, has demonstrated both the lengths people are prepared to go to in the current property climate and the fact they are prepared to live next door to an immigration detention centre - if the Home Office eventually decides to build such a facility on part of the former airbase.

But with prices starting at £124,950 for a two-bedroom home, £134,950 for a three-bedroom home and a range of additional incentives on offer, there is plenty to catch the attention. This all compares favourably to a national average spend of £177,096 for first- time buyers.

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Mrs Algar, who rents a home just yards away from the home she wants to buy, will not be allowed back to the comfort of her house while she is in the official queue.

"The rules are very clear: you have to be here on your spot in the queue pretty much all of the time, even though several of us live nearby at the moment," said Mrs Algar, who will have to vacate her current home at the end of June.

"They have opened another house so we can have a shower and so on, but I have to be in the tent at night.

"We want to stay because the area is so quiet and beautiful."

Mrs Algar said she was "dreading" the next two and a half weeks: "It depends on the weather, but Sunday night was very cold."

Several of the people in line yesterday said they had concerns about the possible immigration centre, but that buying a home outweighed those concerns.

Giles Hart, chairman of the Norwich and District Association of Estate Agents, said he believed Annington Fields marked a significant turning point for the local housing market.

"We have seen so much of the housing stock in this area move into the private rental sector over the last few years. Now, whenever we see two and three-bedroom homes come on the market, the demand is so high because of their scarcity."

The 48 homes - the first of a series of phased sales - will be up for grabs on April 13. A sales centre and view home have been opened on site.

Annington bosses will set aside half of the houses for service personnel who register and join the queue prior to midday on the final day. After midday, the homes will be available to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis.

The sales centre is open daily from 10.30am to 5.30pm and can be contacted on 01603 738274.

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