A rampant beast in Bodmin: the housing market

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If you thought housing booms were a London phenomenon, think again. The town of Bodmin, Cornwall has emerged as the epicentre of an extraordinary price surge over the past decade.

If you thought housing booms were a London phenomenon, think again. The town of Bodmin, Cornwall has emerged as the epicentre of an extraordinary price surge over the past decade.

Prices in some of the most desirable towns across Englandhave more than tripled since 1995, when the housing market first emerged from the 1990s recession and triggered a boom that is still gripping the UK.

Prices in Bodmin have jumped by more than 220 per cent since 1995, according to Halifax bank - the second largest rise of any small town in England.

But while Londoners might boast of earning more from their house than they do from their job, in Bodmin the surge in prices is no joking matter.

Carolyn Elliott, 36, a support worker, said the price of her two-bedroom council house - where she lives with her daughter Chanie, 15 - has risen from £23,000 in 1997 to £115,000 today, a price beyond her means.

"When you're only earning £10,000 a year, you just can't afford those kind of prices," she said.

An economic boom, a shortage of new homes and the cheapest mortgage rates for half a century have driven up prices in British cities, forcing aspirant buyers to look to new areas - such as Bodmin - to find a home.

Even one of the architects of the boom, Sir Edward George, who helped set interest rates as the governor of the Bank of England during the past nine years, chose Bodmin for his retirement.

Sir Edward bought Tremeer Manor in St Trudy near Bodmin in 1998 for £650,000. Two years ago, it was estimated at £1.5m.

Earlier this week ,it was reported that more than a dozen primary schools in Dorset are threatened with closure because owners of second homes have priced local families out of the market.

Richard Kemp, acting chairman of housing on the Local Government Association, said: "We should not be rejoicing at the way house prices are going. Local young people can't afford to live in these villages and market towns any more.

"They are forced to move 30 miles away, which means the social infrastructure breaks down."

But Londoners planning to flee the capital's soaring house prices to secure a rural retreat may be in for a shock. It looks as if they've missed the boat.

Halifax said prices in 112 market towns with a population of between 3,000 and 30,000 had risen 140 per cent since 1995, compared with 115 per cent for the UK as a whole.

The average price of a home in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire is more than £550,000 - a price more expensive than all but one London borough - according to the Halifax.

The capital is ringed by towns that have seen prices hit levels once only familiar to Londoners - £280,000 in Midhurst, West Sussex and Ringwood, Hampshire and £268,000 in Cranbrook, Kent.

This picture is mirrored across the country, with prices in idyllic towns on the outskirts of cities rapidly moving out of reach of locals as city-dwellers flee the concrete jungle.

Lymm, Cheshire, just 15 miles from Manchester, is one of the 20 most expensive market towns. An average house would set you back £229,412.

Wetherby, West Yorkshire, some 10 miles from Leeds' booming financial services industry, has an average house price of £226,000.

Martin Ellis, the chief economist at Halifax, said: "A lot of these places are seen as attractive retreats away from the rat race. This is keeping prices up."

There is certainly an exodus from city to countryside. Separate research published on Monday will show large numbers of homebuyers are looking to move out of London and the South-east and into the South-west and East Anglia.

Other areas experiencing migration include the North-west and West Midlands - regions characterised by industrial centres such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

Mr Kemp, a Liverpool councillor, said: "If you had told me three years ago there would be an affordability problem here I would have laughed in your face. But we have seen house prices triple."