Land at Warburton Lane, Trafford
12th February 2021
Continuum provided expert witness services on financial viability in planning in a high-profile planning inquiry on behalf of a key client, Trafford Council. The proposed outline scheme was for 400 residential units.
The key matter of dispute in the inquiry related to the provision of affordable housing where the inspector commented there was a considerable need within the Borough. The appellant argued that the scheme could not “viably support any affordable housing at all”. Cushman & Wakefield were acting for Redrow, the appellant. The Council’s policy compliant provision of affordable housing for the site was 45% (180 units).
Murray Lloyd was the expert witness on viability for the Council and Chris Gardner provided viability support to both Murray and David Forsdick QC.
The appellant contested the appropriate affordable housing percentage in the Council’s adopted development plan. It was found by the Inspector that it was not for the Council or their advisers to defend the adopted policy:
“Whether the boundary between different market locations is justified should be considered through the local plan process and is not a matter for this inquiry”
The key viability matters debated in the inquiry related to benchmark land value, build costs, abnormal costs and sales values. The Inspector sided with the Council on every matter discussed.
It was considered that benchmark land value should be assessed on the basis as asserted by Continuum using bare agricultural values with no allowance for hope value.
Continuum’s assessment of benchmark land value was supported by the Inspector in all aspects from establishing existing use to the application of an appropriate premium.
The Inspector commented on the application of abnormal costs that:
“a landowner should not expect to receive the same price for a site where the development costs are high to one where they are much lower”
In relation to build costs, a commercial approach was followed by Continuum, which was supported by the Inspector who commented that Redrow, the appellant, would undertake a process of value engineering and benefit from economies of scale in a similar way to any other volume house builder.
Cushman & Wakefield sought to downplay sales values by focusing on a social housing estate in Partington, Continuum did not agree with the approach as a developer would seek to highlight the benefits of their development, this was supported by the Inspector who commented:
“I consider that the appeal development has been significantly undervalued… I would expect any competent marketing exercise to emphasise its positive attributes”
The inspector sided with Trafford Council and dismissed the appeal with financial viability being the key reason.
The PINS reference to view the full appeal is APP/Q4245/W/19/3243720 and is available at the following link: