FOR years its cobbled streets, Georgian high street and luxury marinas have proved popular with wealthy househunters from across the UK.

Now the upmarket Hampshire port of Lymington has been named the fifth most expensive seaside town in Britain, with the average property selling for £426,112.

Affluent families seeking seaside retirement homes or weekend cottages overlooking the Solent have helped drive up property prices.

Three years ago the average house price in the area stood at £340,944 – and the relentless rise in property values has continued ever since.

In the latest blow to locals struggling to get on the property ladder, mortgage lenders Halifax have announced that Lymington and other seaside towns are among the most expensive locations in Britain.

The average cost of homes in seaside communities across the UK is said to have risen by 32-per-cent since 2006.

Sandbanks in Poole has the dearest homes at £664,655, but regional variations mean Port Bannatyne in Scotland has the cheapest at £77,132.

Lymington’s position on the edge of the New Forest National Park is thought to be one of the factors behind sky-high property prices in the area.

Martin Ellis, a housing economist at Halifax, said: “Seaside towns are highly popular places to live, offering sought-after scenery, weather and lifestyle.

“They also attract those looking for holiday properties, which adds to upward pressure on house prices.”

Lymington’s mayor Cllr Barry Dunning said the town council was worried about the number of young people who were finding it increasingly difficult to remain in the area.

He added: “We’re attracting a lot of retired people from London and other affluent parts of the country.

“The character of the town is changing – you have to be fairly wealthy to live here. House prices are high and we’re getting more expensive shops as well.”

In 2003 the Lymington area was found to have the 12th highest number of millionaires in the country when business and marketing experts at EuroDirect examined the fortunes of about seven million shareholders from the registers of Britain’s 500 companies.

As part of their research they studied the SO41 postcode area, which includes Lymington and surrounding communities such as Milford on Sea.

They found that the area had 161 millionaires among its population of 23,745, making it the most popular area for the very rich outside of London and Scotland.

But local politicians warned that despite its upmarket image Lymington and neighbouring communities had pockets of social deprivation.