HOUSE prices in the Blackburn area have plummeted by more than a quarter in the last five years, the third worst drop in the country, new figures reveal.

Official Land Registry statistics show that the average cost of a home in the borough has fallen by 26.2 per cent from £97,802 in September 2007 to £72,171 last month.

Across England and Wales the price of the average home rose by 0.7 per cent to £163,376 between September 2007 and 2012.

The fall is also considerably worse than the North West average for the period of 19.2 per cent and the rest of Lancashire’s 22 per cent drop.

Blackburn MP Jack Straw described the shock figure as ‘both worrying and an opportunity’.

He said: “The fall is obviously a worry for people with homes who are in negative equity.

“But they are an opportunity for people who want to buy a good quality home in Blackburn. I shall certainly be looking into them.”

Craig Pickles, managing director of Proctor’s Estate Agents in Blackburn, said: “There are certain areas in every town where prices hold up nicely, and other areas that take a bit of stick.

“Where you have an area with a high percentage of terraced properties there has been a price correction, as at the moment, there is more supply than demand because people trying to get on the property ladder are struggling to get mortgages and deposits.

“However, lower prices mean that you get more value for money, and the cost of running a property is more affordable. In theory, people should have more disposable income and a better quality of life.”

A spokesman for Hilary’s Estate Agent in Blackburn said: “It’s terraced houses that are most affected in Blackburn. People don’t want to live in areas where the cheapest houses are, and so the price of those houses comes down even more.”

Blackburn with Darwen council executive board member for resources Andy Kay said: “As an authority we are doing all we can to regenerate the borough which should have a knock on effect on house prices.”

Tory leader Mike Lee said: “I would say this is a problem for people with negative equity who cannot afford to sell at a loss and then block up the housing ladder.”

The figure was highlighted by financial firm The Castle Trust which is offering a new type of “Partnership Mortgage” to help get the housing market in Blackburn and other areas with falling property prices moving.

Blackburn with Darwen’s average home price continued in freefall last year with a 4.1 per cent drop compared to falls of 2.4 per cent in Blackpool, 3.2 in Lancashire and 2.5 across the North-West.

In the month between July and August this year home values rose by 0.4 per cent in the North-West but fell by 3.6 per cent in Blackburn with Darwen suggesting the property price collapse in the borough was gaining pace.

Nationwide the worst drop was Blackpool at 29.4 per cent with Oldham second at 26.9 per cent.

At the Labour Party Conference in Manchester yesterday Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls called for urgent action to kick-start the housing market by introducing a two year stamp duty holiday for all properties worth less than £250,000.