BASILDON is fast losing its reputation as a “rough”, rundown place to live, according to estate agents.

Letting agents say hundreds of would-be residents are flocking to the town in search of homes to rent.

Rents in the town have increased by 22 per cent in the past 14 months, according to Basildon estate agent Balgores.

It says this is largely down to regeneration programmes, which are making it a more attractive place to live.

New housing developments such as Acacia Park, in Gloucester Park, and Morello Quarter, in Cherrydown East, plus the regeneration of Pitsea, and the 20 year Basildon town centre masterplan have all added to the town’s allure.

Balgores lettings manager Raymond Wood predicts things will continue to improve.

He said: “The increase is phenomenal.

Even the older, cheaper stuff, which would have been £400 to rent a year ago, is now renting for £500.

“Basildon used to have a stigma, but that’s passing now. It had a rough image, but that’s improved with all the redevelopment.

“We have the A127, the A13, the beach down the road, three railway stations going to London and the council is undertaking a colossal redevelopment.

“There is lots of money coming into the area, with new businesses and Basildon Hospital employing more staff. All the bits and pieces have added to Basildon being more popular.”

In December 2012, Balgores was renting property in Basildon for an average of £625 a month. Last month the average rental price was £799 a month – an increase of 22 per cent.

Mr Wood predicted rent would stabilise as tenants moved out of newproperties and theywere no longer brand new, but he still believed a growing number of people would choose to live in the town.

Malcolm Buckley, Basildon councillor responsible for regeneration, said: “All our work is making Basildon more attractive.

“It is a town and a borough that has everything. We have a good-quality shopping centre, the Festival Leisure Park, easy access to the M25, London and London Gateway, plus Southend, London City and Stansted airports.

“We can only look forward to a brighter and better future for Basildon.”

Phil Turner, the council’s deputy leader, said: “It’s good news for people of the town that the borough is a better place to live.

“That’s what we’ve really tried to work on. On the other hand it’s bad news if you’re having to pay more for accommodation.”

Alice Baker, 24, of the Fold, Basildon moved from Benfleet and couldn’t be happier with the town.

“I DO think the stigma is beginning to lift.

“The council is pushing the right way. There’s more housing being built and the whole of the town centre is being regenerated.

“People are so quick to turn around and say it’s such a horrible place, but it’s really not that bad. With the wide range of shops Basildon has, you are not going to get that lucky, apart from at Lakeside, or Bluewater.

“The council tax has been frozen for the past few years.

“For me, moving to Basildon was never an issue. There are a lot of big organisations based here too, such as NatWest, Trading Standards and New Holland.

“There’s a lot going for Basildon. I love living here.

“It’s good that I got here just before it boomed. Knowing the politics, and plans for the next 20 years, the potential of Basildon is attractive.”

Terry Latchford, 74, of Ballards Walk, Laindon, doesn’t think Basildon is the place to be.

“SO much for this green and pleasant land. They are building everywhere and everyone is sick of it.

“Everyone I speak to thinks Basildon is going downhill.

“All this building will mean the roads will be blocked up, there won’t be enough schools for children and you will have to wait weeks for a doctor’s appointment.

“This regeneration is turning our town into a concrete jungle.

“There’s no space for families to play. If children want to play football now they have to go to Basildon Sporting Village and spend £50 renting an Astroturf pitch.

“There are more people moaning about Basildon than praising it.

“People don’t want the area upgraded. They don’t want any more housing.”