Eastern Promise. Property Mail Cheaper Homes, Easy Commutes - No Wonder East Anglia Is Luring a New Generation of Homebuyers, Says Cheryl Markosky UK PROPERTY

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Byline: CHERYL MARKOSKY

WHO LIVES in East Anglia?

Groups of retirees whiling away their time at genteel seaside resorts?

It's the picture that often springs to mind - the region has long endured a rather fuddy-duddy image.

But these days, thanks to the regeneration of Ipswich's waterfront and new developments arriving in market towns, you're more likely to see young couples and families in the east of the country than older folk brandishing their bus passes.

Research into migration around the UK from property consultancy Savills shows the largest migration groups to East Anglia are now the under tens and those aged 30 to 40.

'There is a large inward migration of younger families into the area, the majority of which are settling into urban areas,' says Neal Hudson from Savills' research department, One young family that ventured eastwards was the Smiths, who bought a [pounds sterling]170,000 three-bed detached house off-plan in April at Crest Nicholson's Kings Warren scheme in the Suffolk town of Red Lodge, 30 minutes from Cambridge. Mark Smith, his fiancee Tracy Jennings and their two children - Joshua, four, and Poppy, one - moved into their new house last month.

'We see this as a way to jump up the ladder a bit,' says plastics salesman Mark, 34, who comes from the north- east of England.

'Buying in East Anglia means we can afford a house right off rather than having to buy a flat and then move upwards.' They also like the central location of Kings Warren - it's between Newmarket and Mildenhall and just three miles from Kennett station offering a direct service into Cambridge.

Mark and his 33-year-old fiancee Tracy, who works part-time for a drug research company, can both be at their workplaces near Cambridge and Saffron Walden within half an hour.

Proposed amenities on site - a new primary school, sports areas, shops, supermarket and pub - attracted the family as well. There is also talk of a tennis centre and a boating lake to be used for Olympic rowing events.

Mark regards his new home as a sound investment. 'I believe prices in the area will go up, and with the American air base nearby at Lakenheath, there always will be demand.' Young couples are increasingly forced out to East Anglia because they can't afford the high prices nearer London, points out Kenmore Homes' Robert Wilkinson, who is building 105 apartments and townhouses at Peach Maltings, Thingoe Hill, in the market town of Bury St Edmunds.

'The apartments priced from [pounds sterling]130,000 appeal mainly to couples, while the three to four-bed townhouses for under [pounds sterling]250,000 pull in families,' he says.

THE regeneration of the waterfront in Ipswich, where two-bed apartments cost around [pounds sterling]200,000, has been a draw for young professionals who would have to pay double that amount or more for the same type of property in the capital.

'They are within a few minutes' walk of the railway station, with a 65-minute run to Liverpool Street,' explains David Clarke, of Strutt & Parker, in Ipswich. 'There is even a deli at Ipswich station now, where you can get fantastic ready meals that you can heat when you get home.' Buyers are realising Suffolk is quite civilised now, Clarke adds, 'with boutiques and good eateries in market towns that weren't there a few years ago'.

He says that despite prices rising by ten to 15 per cent this year, they still remain competitive, with a three-bed semi ten minutes from Ipswich centre at [pounds sterling]200,000, a two to three-bed cottage in a nearby town in the region of [pounds sterling]250,000 and a four-bed farmhouse with a third of an acre of land from [pounds sterling]400,000. …