What everyone in the city has known for years is now official – property in Salford acquired by Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) has been undervalued by both Salford Council and the District Valuer.
It was 5th September 2005 when the Sheriff's Office rode into Higher Broughton to forcibly evict Jimmy Griffiths from his home in Hampshire Street.
Jimmy had originally been offered £21,000 for the three bedroom terrace by Salford Council. He refused to accept it, and the District Valuer, Russell Fine, was brought in to give an independent valuation which he decided would be £36,500. Jimmy still considered this to be way too low, when similar houses were selling nearby for over £75,000.
As he wrote in Salford Star issue 4… "The most outrageous fact to emerge from all this is the Council's role in me being evicted from a home I own, reducing my social status from being on the first rung of the property ladder to being that of voyeur. I can look at the properties not affected by demolitions but cannot afford to buy one with the derisory compensation being offered."
The new `affordable homes' that were built to replace the demolished streets started at £115,000 rising to £138,000.
Jimmy, backed by his brother Guy, took the case to a Lands Tribunal and this week a ruling was finally received, which gave a valuation of £52,000 or a 42% increase on the District Valuer's valuation, and a whopping 247% increase on the Council's original offer.
While the Griffiths brothers still believe the figure is too low, the case has shone a massive light on how valuations are created for homes that the Council wants to demolish.
The District Valuer, Russell Fine, "a senior surveyor acting as a consultant to the council", gave "expert valuation evidence" in arriving at his figure of £36,500 for the Hampshire Street house. This was based on property prices in three areas – firstly, the Cliff (on the far side of Bury New Road and well away from Hampshire Street), secondly, settlements that the Council had already made with residents in the immediate area (Wiltshire Street) and, thirdly, prices in the Mandley Park area (including Gainsborough St).
The Tribunal ruled out the Valuer's price comparisons to the Cliff because the area was further away and "different in a number of ways". Also the Tribunal found that in arriving at average prices in the area the Valuer had included transactions "which are clearly artificially low".
The Tribunal chair, Mr Francis, stated that "I do not agree with Mr Fine that it produces the best comparables" and added that "I have some reservations regarding Mr Fine's schedule of comparables from this area."
He concluded: "I am of the view that if a comprehensive schedule had been produced for the Cliff area, the resulting averages might have been higher. Without that support, it means the strength of Mr Fine's conclusions must be in question."
Yet these dodgy Cliff valuations were the basis of the offer, not only to Jimmy Griffiths, but also to other residents in the `bottom streets' of Higher Broughton who accepted low offers for their houses.
Consequently, Mr Francis ruled out any evidence from Mr Fine's second source… "I am not satisfied that the settlements that Mr Fine referred to in Wiltshire Street, based as they were upon a limited number of Cliff area comparables, and with an arbitrary reduction, provide grounds for agreeing with the appraisal."
Which left just the Mandley Park area valuations as being valid. However, Mr Fine had dismissed the high prices houses were fetching here because there had been a `knock-on effect' caused by Salford Council's wonderful regeneration of the area - like, in his dreams…
Responding to this, Mr Francis said that "I…do not think that the perceived benefits of the regeneration, especially bearing in mind Mr Griffiths' comments about its lack of success, would have any impact, if any, upon values."
Mr Francis also commented on the low average prices for the Mandley Park area that the District Valuer had quoted… "It is clear that Mr Fine has been selective to a considerable degree" adding that "it is abundantly clear that there were indeed many more sales…than Mr Fine's schedule would suggest" and "that by valuation date many more properties were selling in the range £60,000 to £70,000 than were at much lower prices".
He concluded that the average price for the Mandley Park area in 2005 was £65,000 but that Hampshire Street was 20% less attractive, giving a final figure of £52,000 compensation for Jimmy Griffiths' battleground house in Hampshire Street.
What the case highlights is how the District Valuer seems to always be looking for the lowest possible price to offer residents whose homes are being taken off them, forcibly in this instance.
The District Valuer is independent of course, but is paid by the Council as a consultant and is used by the Council to give "expert valuation evidence". A lot of that evidence, in this landmark Lands Tribunal case between Griffiths and Salford City Council at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, was dismissed as "selective to a considerable degree"…
Councillor Peter Connor, Salford City Council's lead member for housing said yesterday: "The value of Mr Griffiths' property in Higher Broughton was assessed by an independent District Valuer whose decision is binding on the council. The District Valuer is brought in to offer professional and impartial property advice. He is not a city council employee and this property valuation has not been carried out by the authority."
Commenting on the Lands Tribunal ruling, Jimmy Griffiths' brother, Guy said "This a good result for Salford Council because, although this valuation has been shown to be seriously flawed, it's still not actually cost them a lot of money. But imagine if the other 400 people in the area would have fought their corner - it would have cost an extra £6m and I don't think it would have been viable for developers to come in."
This is by no means the end of the story – next up is the valuation for Guy Griffiths' house in the `top streets' demolition area, which is also being disputed…
Read the full Lands Tribunal ruling here
See how Salford Council is arguing it would cost up to £130,000 to refurbish a terrace house in Higher Broughton!
See the six part story in Issue 4 of the Salford Star for all the Higher Broughton background info