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House prices in Cambridge have risen at a faster rate than those in any other town and city in England and Wales since 2010, according to official data that lays bare the growing north-south divide in property values.

The median price paid by buyers in the university city increased by 47% between the year ending in the second quarter of 2010 and the same period five years later, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. Over the same timescale prices in London rose by 38%, and by 37% in Crawley in West Sussex.

Cambridge’s reputation as a tech hub has driven up the cost of property so that the median £360,000 price paid for a home is higher than anywhere except London and St Albans.

Jonathan Hopper, managing director of Garrington Property Finders, a buying agent for wealthy clients, said properties in Cambridge “have been selling within days – or even hours – of coming on the market”.

Hopper said prices in the city had been rising for some years: “Cambridge’s boom is no overnight sensation. Its momentum has been building steadily for more than two decades – ever since the University-backed science parks around the city were branded ‘Silicon Fen’,” he said. “The world class biotech and technology firms they attracted have sent investment – and highly paid, highly qualified employees – rippling out across the city.”

The ONS figures show that half of homebuyers in 32 towns and cities in England and Wales paid at least £200,000 for a property last spring. While in the south of England this was the case in 29 of the 45 towns compared, in the north and the Midlands it was true in just three out of 64 towns - Harrogate, Solihull and Sutton Coldfield.

The ONS said the town with the highest median price was St Albans in Hertfordshire, at £390,000. The city is a popular spot for commuters as its rail link with London can bring workers into the capital in just 20 minutes.

This was followed by London, where the median price paid was £380,000.

The lowest median price was found in Burnley, where half of homes changed hands for £78,000 or less. Next was Oldham, with a median price of £95,000.

The figures show the median house price - half of buyers paid at least that figure or more for their homes, and they are not adjusted to take into account the different types of property that have been sold during the period. The high number of small flats sold in London is likely to be the reason for it not appearing at the top of the list.

Between the year ending in the second quarter of 2010 and the same period of 2015, median prices rose by more than 20% in 26 towns, all located in the south of England. In Wales, the north and the Midlands, the biggest increase was 18.4%, recorded in South Shields, near Newcastle. In contrast, prices fell in Blackpool, Southport, Bradford and Swansea. The Welsh city recorded the biggest drop, with the median price down by 3.9% from £130,000 in the second quarter of 2010, to £125000 in the same period of 2015.

Russell Quirk, founder emoov, the online estate agent, said the train links in St Albans were a factor in the city’s high house prices. “Although the house itself is the primary concern, it shows how important good rail links, in particular, have become to the UK homebuyer,” he said.

“St Albans has benefited hugely over the last two decades thanks to the Thameslink and, with the Crossrail improvements, Cambridge could be in a very similar position in another 20 years’ time.”

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