The North-South divide is increasing in the housing market, according to Bellway, one of the biggest house builders. The company said yesterday that while its sales in the South, particularly in London, were showing signs of recovery, the North was taking longer.

Alistair Leitch, its finance director, said: 'The southern markets have held up a lot better. Unemployment and the amount of flats built in northern cities are holding back the North.'

The house builder, which has debts of £111m — smaller than most of its peers — is starting to buy land again.

The Times (Sat)