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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 08:39 GMT
Town tops cost of living league
Estate agents boards
An average home in Gerrards Cross costs 627,660
Gerrards Cross in Bucks is the most expensive place in Britain to live, with the average home costing 627,660.

But other towns are catching up as house price inflation rages in areas outside the South of England, according to the Halifax building society.

Bellshill near Glasgow recorded the biggest house price increase, of 70%.

Of the 20 towns with the biggest home price increases, 13 were in the West, seven in Wales, five in the North West and one in western Scotland.

For the second year running, the top 20 towns were all located outside the south of England.

Strong price growth

The highest increase recorded by a southern town was by Hastings, East Sussex, which saw an annual increase of 38% ranking it 24th in the league table.

The majority of towns recording the strongest price growth in 2004 began the year with relatively low prices, the Halifax said.

Glasgow commuter town Bellshill was the second least expensive town in the UK in 2003 and four of the top eight towns in 2004 were also amongst the 20 least expensive towns in 2003.

The south of England remains the most expensive place to live in the UK - with Buckinghamshire, Surrey and Middlesex the costliest counties.

Narrowed north/south divide

Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, is now the most expensive town in the country to buy a house.

The continued strength of the housing market in regions outside the South East has narrowed the north/south divide over the past 12 months.

At the end of 2003 the average property in the South cost 1.9 times as much as in the north, but this has narrowed to 1.6 now.

The least expensive places to buy property in the UK are in Scotland, the North West, the North, Wales, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and Humberside.

Jane Pridgeon, chairman Halifax Estate Agents, said: "The same towns in the south of England are in an exclusive club of their own because they are the most expensive places to own a home in the UK."

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