HUNDREDS of Uttoxeter husbands and wives are cheating on their partners, new figures have revealed.
Three-hundred-and-twenty-four people from the town and its surrounding villages are now registered with website Illicit Encounters.
The site is effectively a dating service for married people looking to have affairs.
The company has seen a 40 per cent surge in membership in the last five years.
Its bosses put that down to financial pressures, including a drop in the average UK property value, which they claim are making divorce ‘more difficult’.
A spokesman for Illicit Encounters said: “Spiralling house prices have made divorce increasingly difficult for many couples.
“They are struggling along unhappily because they simply cannot afford the cost of setting up two homes.”
Ted Whittaker, the Church of England vicar for St Mary’s Church, in Uttoxeter, has urged couples to remain faithful.
He said: “Christians believe that sex is a gift from God and, as such, should be treated with respect.
“The church encourages fidelity in all relationships, and integrity in personality. Family is important so we shouldn’t take our partners for granted.
“The break-up of a family is often a tragic and painful event and people get hurt - so why risk it?
“A marriage is like a flower. If you tend and care for it, it will grow into something lovely, but, if you neglect it, then it is destined to wither.
“If you treat sex and marriage as a game, don’t expect to win.”
Despite the church’s views on the sanctity of marriage, Rev Whittaker has reminded those who have been unfaithful that they still deserve forgiveness.
He said: “It is not the job of the church to tell people how they should live their lives, but we do encourage ourselves and others to be the best people we can be - faithful, loving and having integrity.
“It is sad when marriages become strained or fail.
“But, unfortunately, it happens and, when it does, the church community is here to care - not condemn.
“We are not here to judge. Instead, we carry a message of forgiveness and a new start for any who have made mistakes in life.”
Relationship counselling charity Relate has added its voice to those urging people in struggling marriages to work through their problems.
Relate counsellor Christine Northam said, “In our experience at Relate, affairs can be painful and destructive, and some relationships never recover.
“Our advice would be to seek help for a relationship if people aren’t happy rather than considering an affair as a solution.”
Uttoxeter’s figures are about average compared to nearby, similar-sized towns.
Illicit Encounters has 253 members in Stone and 334 in Leek.
The Berkshire town of Maidenhead was found to be the most unfaithful in the UK.
Around two per cent of the town’s 63,580 population - or 1,316 people, are using Illicit Encounters’ services.
Like many of the other high-scoring areas in Britain, Maidenhead is a rich commuter town in the south of England.
Its average house price is £450,000 and there are more millionaires in Maidenhead than in any other UK town outside London.
A full list of figures is available online at www.infidelityindex.co.uk.