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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 05:13 GMT 06:13 UK
Scots town tops hot property list
For sale signs
House price growth has been higher in the northern regions
The Scottish town of Bellshill has the fastest house price growth in the UK, a building society's figures suggest.

The town recorded a 46% rise in house prices during the past year, according to the Halifax.

It says the top 10 towns for house price growth in the UK are all outside southern England, with four in Scotland and three in Wales.

While the smallest house price rises have been in County Down, East Sussex, Oxfordshire, Dorset and Hertfordshire.

North/south divide

The top 10 towns all continue to have an average price below the UK average of 162,840.

The biggest price rises at county level were in the Highlands in Scotland, with a 35% rise, followed by County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Powys in Wales.

The Halifax said there had been a clear divide between north and south in house price performance.

Scotland and Wales made up the majority of the top 20 counties with the biggest price gains, with seven in Scotland and five in Wales.

Northern Ireland and Scotland experienced the strongest price rises, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West and the North .

But in southern England house prices are not growing so fast, with the region holding eight of the 10 counties recording the smallest increases in the past 12 months.

Greater London, the South East and the South West recorded the smallest growth.

It has been areas in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and northern England that have recorded the most buoyant housing market conditions over the past year
Martin Ellis

The divide in regional prices means the gap between London prices and prices in the rest of the country have continued to narrow.

The difference between the average house price in the capital and the UK is now at its lowest for seven years, in percentage terms.

Martin Ellis, Halifax Chief Economist, said: "It has been areas in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and northern England that have recorded the most buoyant housing market conditions over the past year.

"As a result, the north/south divide has narrowed to its smallest for seven years.

He added that the despite "spectacular" growth, the market has slowed in most areas over the past six months.

"We expect this trend to continue over the coming months, with prices slowing most markedly outside southern England as the recent rapid rises in house prices and the increase in interest rates since late 2003 constrain demand," he said.

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