Affordable housing delivery in the North West has been very poor for many years – with most developments claimed to be unable to support any affordable housing. Trafford Borough Council did not accept the prevailing consensus. In a decision dated 23rd January 2021, the Secretary of State’s Inspector refused outline permission for a 400 unit housing development despite Trafford Borough Council having just a 2.4 year housing land supply and the land being consistently identified for many years for future residential development largely because of a failure to offer any affordable housing. The developer (Redrow) contended for a benchmark land value based on a “standard” 20x multiplier of agricultural land values whilst also claiming that the site had very high abnormals (more £500k per acre) and did not take into account recent increases in house prices resulting in the 0% offer. It also offered a review mechanism once reserved matters were worked up and claimed the Council’s expert (not being RICS and being “out on a limb” from the consensus approach in the region) could not be relied on. The Inspector rejected all parts of the Appellant’s reasoning in the first “test case” on affordable housing viability in the area in recent years. The BLV could not be based on 20x; the abnormals were exaggerated and inconsistent with the claimed BLV, values has been understated; the proposed review mechanism was unacceptable in principle and the evidence of the Council’s expert was to be preferred. The decision is expected to have wide ranging implications for the approach of Greater Manchester authorities to the approach to and claims by the development industry as to the viability of affordable housing.
David Forsdick QC acted for the Council.