A North/South divide is emerging in the housing market with sales racing ahead in southern regions but remaining sluggish in many parts of the north, new figures show.

The towns which have seen the biggest jump in sales levels in England and Wales during the first half of the year are all in London and the South East, according to high street bank Halifax.

But all except three of the 10 towns that have seen the slowest recovery in transaction levels are in northern regions, including three places where there has been no pick up at all.

Ilford in Essex has seen the biggest increase in the number of homes changing hands, with sales levels soaring by 85 per cent during the first six months of the year.

But at the other end of the scale, sales levels have actually fallen by 1 per cent in Blackpool, while they have remained unchanged in Grimsby and Sunderland.

Other places in the northern half of the country such as Newcastle, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Worcester and Doncaster have all seen increases of 10 per cent or less in the number of homes changing hands.

Only four of the top 20 places that have seen the biggest rise in sales are outside of southern regions, namely Chorley in Lancashire, Stockport, Shrewsbury and Durham.

Across the whole of England and Wales property transactions have increased by 27 per cent during the six months, although they still remain well down on levels seen before the credit crunch struck.

Suren Thiru, Halifax housing economist, said: ‘‘Over the past year, some towns have recorded considerable increases in the number of sales compared with 2009.

‘‘Most of these towns have been in London and the South East and have good commuter links to central London.’’