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Column: Swish apartment with roof top cinema 100 minutes from central London - is this the millennials’ dream?

Public squares, public art, housing and shops all feature in plans to transform the area around Doncaster Station.
Public squares, public art, housing and shops all feature in plans to transform the area around Doncaster Station.

Swish town centre apartment in iconic listed building with roof top cinema just 200 metres from the railway station...the ad was certainly eye-catching.

I could’ve added just 100 minutes into central London, an airport on the doorstep, five minutes from an up and coming theatre and a stone’s throw from the gym and I’d be selling the millennial dream.

Except that I’m looking out at the Art Deco former department store currently undergoing renovation from one of my favourite coffee shops ... in Doncaster.

But it did set me thinking, particularly since I’d endured a work trip that involved what I thought would be a comfortable early morning commute across London only to discover that by 6am the squashed-into-a-carriage-like-a-sardine rush hour is already well underway.

We all know that property prices in the capital are beyond the reach of many. Up north, Doncaster is struggling to breath new life into its, frankly, increasingly run down town centre. There could be a mutually beneficial relationship in there somewhere...

My daydreaming saw dozens of hip young professionals heading out for after work beers after leaving Google’s Kings Cross HQ, then heading home on the 10pm train to be tucked up in the dream apartment they own in Donny by midnight instead of heading off to the far reaches of the capital where they can afford to rent a room in a shared house. Work could start early on the morning commute south, thanks to onboard wifi. OK you’ve got the season ticket costs, but the daily capital commute is a big expense too.

It’s all a bit chicken and egg of course; young people have some basic requirements, including lively bars and restaurants and, increasingly, independent shops but without that sort of market in situ, it’s hard to attract those sort of businesses

But there is certainly a lot of work going on to try to capitilise on Doncaster’s many assets. OK, I’ve got a bit of a geeky interest in such things, but I highly recommend taking a look at the council’s Urban Masterplan. It outlines exciting plans for the Minster Quarter and canal side, for example. Just look at Salford and Gateshead to see how successful waterfront developments can be. The historic Corn Exchange and markets are being targeted and the there are plans for retail and business districts. It has ambition, but there is realism too. We need to look forward, not hark back to the past. It could be the key to attracting the mix of people that will help create a new Doncaster, as well as improving life for people who already live here.

We’ve got a strong story to tell - now it’s a case of selling it to the right people, perhaps trendy hipsters as well as business leaders?