Crap towns – where are they now?


 ‘Crap Towns’, the book first released in 2003 exposed towns and cities up and down the UK for being generally.. well.. crap. Property portal have analysed house prices and crime rates in the top 10 Crap Towns from 2003 and 2004 to see how far these areas have come. They detail the results here…

The controversial book, and its sequel Crap Towns II (2004), shone light upon areas that were less than desirable; but over a decade later, have these ‘crap towns’ managed to turn themselves around? Or have they merely strengthened their ‘crappy’ credentials?

From Cumbernauld to Corby and Bradford to Bexhill-on-sea, the controversial Crap Towns list brought unwanted attention to the grim, the dangerous and the disappointing places that Brits love to hate.

Over a decade later, have calculated the average price of properties currently on the market, and the average crime rate, for Hackney, Hull, Basingstoke and Luton, in an attempt to assess how these locations are performing today.

House prices and crime rates are two key factors in determining the desirability of an area – with high house prices and low crime rates typically signifying an established desirable location. However, these stats alone may not tell the whole picture.


From the 2003 Crap Towns, Winchester seems to have the strongest credentials today with the perfect combination of low crime rates and high house prices. Hackney performed equally well on house prices, with an average price of £708,281, but high crime rates let the area down. At the other end of the spectrum, the combination of low house prices and low crime rates in areas like Sunderland and Corby should make them attractive prospects for investors. Despite Hull’s cultural transformation, high crime rates persist and although house prices have been rising, they are not yet at the levels of a more established desirable area.

Windsor and Bath have both performed well in the desirability rankings, with some of the highest house prices and the lowest crime rates out of all the 2004 Crap Towns. Clapham represented the extremes for both factors with the highest house prices and highest crime rates. As the only Crap Town from 2004 based in London, it is not surprising that Clapham stands out against its competitors. Sunderland and Corby could make attractive prospects for Buy To Let investors, with some of the lowest house prices and low-mid level crime rates.

Crap Towns Case Study: Luton

Key Points

•             Luton was voted as the No. 1 Crap Town in 2004 and was described as “the toilet of England”

•             Over a decade later Luton has benefitted hugely from the “ripple effect” of cash-rich Londoners leaving the capital

•             Land Registry have identified Luton as a property hot-spot for 2016

•             Luton is now outperforming London for house price growth

•             Average price for a semi-detached home risen by £40k since 2014

•             Hand-picked for ‘Healthy High Streets’ programme and selected as ‘Business Improvement District’

•             Crime rates have decreased and are below the national average in many categories

•             House price increases:

-Last 5 years: £48,548

-Last 10 years: £52,442

-Last 20 years: £173,034

When Luton was referred to as the 'toilet of England'
When Luton was referred to as the ‘toilet of England’

Luton was once known as ‘the toilet of England’, which is probably why the London suburb topped the charts in the second series of ‘Crap Towns’ in 2004. Local landlord, Chris Juraszek, described the town as “an ugly, hard-drinking place with absolutely nothing to see and nothing to do”.

Luton couldn’t seem to catch a break back in the early noughties – on top of their No. 1 Crap Town achievement, Luton was also voted as the 9th ugliest town centre in the UK with one voter commenting, “It used to be a lovely town until the 1970’s when monstrosities like the Arndale Centre and the multi-story car parks started being built. Now the whole place is just lumps of concrete!” In a separate survey for iLiveHere, Luton was again voted among the worst places to live in the UK, coming second in the 2005 rankings.

Another damning description of Luton came from Sam Jordinson, author of Crap Towns, who commented:

“It is incredibly ugly. Architecturally it is the worst town in the country. It is too close to London for there to be any proper facilities, but at the same time it’s far enough away to generate an other-worldly sense of neglected isolation.”

Since the second edition of the book, the town has developed a new reputation. Being only 25 miles from North London, the town is ideally positioned as a commuter hot-spot, which could be the reason why the average price of a semi-detached home has shot up by over £40k since 2014. In fact, the Land Registry have already identified Luton as a Property Hot-Spot for 2016, which is no surprise seeing as Luton actually outperformed London for house price growth over the last year.

Luton has most certainly benefitted from the ‘ripple effect’ of cash rich Londoners wanting more for their money on the outskirts of the capital. Purplebricks founder, Michael Bruce, recently commented in an article for the Huffington Post that Luton is perfect for people who want “a great house, at a great price and yet they are only 23 minutes from London by fast train”.

With the influx of London’s professionals, and the general improvement in the area, Luton’s crime rate has dropped significantly and now stands at 75.24 crimes per 1000 people for 2015. When compared to the other areas mentioned in the 2004 Crap Towns list, Luton is performing rather well and crime rates for burglary, drug and anti-social behaviour related crimes are now all below the national average.

Luton council also secured a cool £78million from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for a regeneration scheme, which includes a new riverside development with open air bars and restaurants, and the renovation of dilapidated transport hubs, making the suburb more cosmopolitan, giving residents more things to do in a town that once lacked leisure facilities.

With a further 11 schools being built under the Building Schools for the Future scheme and the town becoming a ‘Business Improvement District’, Luton is certainly becoming a place where people are building their lives, careers and families. Not to mention, it is also a great destination for quick and easy holidays, due to the local airport, which flies to the continent and USA. Luton airport also has plans for a direct train line into central London. The journey will take just 20 minutes, and the project is estimated to cost £100million, which will also allow the airport to be added to London’s Oyster Card network.

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