NORTH Dorset is the least affordable rural district in Britain with an average house price of £361,603, a report has found.

According to the Halifax Rural Housing Review, house prices are, on average, 11.4 times local earnings in North Dorset.

West Dorset is the ninth least affordable local authority district in Britain.

This is in contrast to some of the most affordable rural areas in the country, such as Copeland and East Ayrshire, where prices are only just over four times that of local earnings.

The Halifax report also revealed that rural homes across the country are 20 per cent more expensive on average than those in urban areas, with the figure standing at 23 per cent for the South West.

First-time buyers also account for a smaller proportion of homebuyers in the countryside relative to urban areas.

Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, leader of North Dorset District Council, said housebuilding figures in the area "have not been great this year".

"North Dorset has suffered in recent years, but the council is accelerating its housing programme to alleviate this.

"The Gillingham Southern Extension, which is expected to deliver 1,800 new homes, will have around 25 per cent affordable housing - slightly lower than our aspirational 35-40 per cent."

He added: "Historically, we have a really good record of affordable housing. People are coming into North Dorset because, for starters, it's less expensive than other parts of Dorset."

Polly Greenway, director of DOMVS, which deals in property across Dorset, said: “For North and West Dorset, yes they are expensive areas to live in, and it is not easy for first time buyers to step onto the ladder in those areas now. I think more and more people outside the area are discovering the beauty of North and West Dorset. Affordability levels for first time buyers are difficult.”

Mrs Greenway also commented on the premiums people pay for countryside homes.

She said: “If they are larger and have more land then that is what is going to attract a premium – and the same with coastal properties. Equally an elegant town house with space and parking also attracts a premium.”

The director added that house prices in Dorset more generally are currently fairly stationary.

She said: “I do not think the prices are coming down. I think they are quite static. Do I think prices are going to drop? I do not think they are, but I do not think prices are going to run away with themselves either.”