Property hotspots help to narrow North-South divide in house prices

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The Independent Online

Crewe is the new property hotspot, with house prices surging in the Cheshire town by 58 per cent over the past year, a rise demonstrating that the North is outstripping the South.

Crewe is the new property hotspot, with house prices surging in the Cheshire town by 58 per cent over the past year, a rise demonstrating that the North is outstripping the South.

After decades of hand-wringing over the North-South divide, figures from the Halifax show that Britain's traditional geographical gap is narrowing, with the biggest 10 property hotspots all north of a line from the Severn to the Wash.

In Crewe, the former railway town 30 miles from Manchester with a population of 111,000, the price of the average property rose £72,430 to £196,970 over the 12 months to June.

Derek Cook, director of environment and development for Crewe and Nantwich borough council, said: "House prices traditionally in Crewe have been relatively modest. But in part it is because there's a strong and prosperous local economy with low unemployment and partly because it is accessible.

"Crewe is good if you are looking for reasonable accommodation outside a conurbation at an affordable price, and with travel links to Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham."

London has slipped to the bottom of a league table of annual prices rises across mainland Britain, closely followed by the South-east. The Halifax, the UK's largest mortgage lender, says the gap between house prices in London and the British average has fallen to its lowest level for five years.

Crewe was followed by Carlisle in Cumbria, Accrington in Lancashire and Kirkcaldy in Fife, but prices jumped by more than 50 per cent for all, Halifax said. Four of the towns in the top 10 are within striking distance of Manchester, providing further evidence that surging prices in urban areas have forced workers to look further afield to live.

As well as Crewe, and Accrington, 20 miles to the north, Chorley and Oldham, in Greater Manchester, registered rises of between 45 and 50 per cent. Martin Ellis, chief economist at Halifax, said: "There is definitely a pattern, with the more central areas doing better in the early stages and then the effect rippling out as people are priced out of the cities. Manchester has had an economic boom so more people want to live centrally but simply find they can't."

The pattern was replicated north of the border, with prices in Kirkcaldy, Airdrie and Kilmarnock shooting up by at least 44 per cent on the back of the financial services boom that is gripping Glasgow and Edinburgh.

But Mr Ellis added: "The rapid rise in house prices in northern Britain and Wales means increasing numbers of first-time buyers in these parts now face similar difficulties to those in the South in getting on to the housing ladder."

Mr Cook said the council in Crewe was about to embark on a survey of housing needs in the town. "Affordability is an issue that concerns us. Whilst [the price rise] is good news for people who have homes it is a potential problem for people wishing to enter the housing market."

The average price of a home in London stands at 1.56 times the national average, compared with a peak of 1.86 three years ago, the lowest ratio since 1998.

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