Brentwood is Essex goldfish bowl

CONTROVERSIAL TV show The Only Way is Essex may have caused local upset but it has had the opposite effect on curious housebuyers and tourists.

The ITV2 programme, which follows the lives of people living in the county, has been slammed by many Essex people for portraying them as crass stereotypes.

But figures for the Zoopla property website have shown a dramatic rise in interest in Brentwood, with internet searches rising 21.6 percent.

And tourist numbers have also seen a sharp rise, according to Visit Essex, which says figures are up 15 per cent and businesses are enjoying a boost.

Estate agents urge caution though, with a shortage of properties for sale in the town and buyers struggling to get mortgages likely to mean its new found popularity will come to nothing.

Russell Quirk, owner of Russell Quirk and Co estate agents, said: “Anything that provides a boost for local people and businesses can only be a good thing.

“But I think it’s more idle curiosity than anything. It might have made us more of a goldfish bowl for internet browsers but there certainly hasn’t been a stampede of people phoning and saying they’ve sold their house in Dartford and want to come and live here.”

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Properties for sale in Brentwood since the programme began on October 10 have fallen by 4.4 per cent and demand across Essex as a whole is down 6.6 per cent.

The owner of the newly-reopened Sugar Hut nightclub, Kirk Norcross, is one of seven people whose lives come under the spotlight during the series.

It has caused a stir and a Facebook group called Real Essex People Don’t Like The Only Way is Essex has hundreds of members.