BASILDON has virtually swallowed up Laindon and Pitsea. As one of a clutch of new towns planned after World War Two to absorb people and industry from London, it exists as a kind of joke to people who once thought we could be weaned away from commuting. The planners thought people could live and work in the same place – industrial development was zoned to the north of the town – and for this reason it was built without a station, but they finally had to bow to pressure and build one in the Seventies. Now 60 years old, Basildon is no longer a β€˜new’ town. Its phenomenal rate of growth has not been without its problems; older residents have felt increasingly uneasy about walking alone at night, and sometimes the town has had to be heavily policed. Against that, the centre was given a multi-million-pound makeover, together with a millennium glass bell tower opened by the Queen. The town is poised to benefit from being part of the proposed regeneration of the Thames Gateway area, which should pull in new businesses. Around 1,310 new homes are planned for the Craylands and Fryern estate with improved public transport. You could buy a four-bedroom executive house with garage for £230,000 to £400,000.

Good for: hope factor connected to the 2012 Olympics, affordability.

other stations nearby...

London terminal: Fenchurch St
Journey time: 35 mins
Season ticket: £2188
Peak trains: 5 per hour
Off-peak trains: 4 per hour