Can the owner of a house next to a motorway apply for a reduction in Council Tax if traffic on the motorway has increased so much that it may have reduced the value of the house? That was the question posed at a recent Appeal Court hearing.

The case concerned four householders, living in bungalows on Winslow Road Bolton, a street running parallel to the M61 motorway, close to Junction 5.

Because the motorway runs at an elevated level close to the bungalows, the level of noise, dust and other pollution is high. Measures aimed at reducing the noise level, including resurfacing and erecting a sound barrier, had not materialised. The result was a fall in the value of these homes by up to a reported £60,000.

Council Tax listing officer Mr Chilton-Merryweather accepted that there had been an increase in traffic levels, but said that this was an environmental change and not a “physical change” as required by the legislation. Since it was agreed that there had been no alteration to the fabric of the motorway, there could be no claim for a reduction in Council Tax, according to Mr Chilton-Merryweather.

When the householders appealed against the listing officer’s assessment, Manchester North Valuation Tribunal held that the increase in the volume of traffic amounted to a physical change within the meaning of the legislation, a view upheld by a subsequent High Court hearing.

The Court of Appeal, however, took the opposite view. With reference to the legislation governing council tax assessments, it held that in order to allow a reduction in the ‘material value’ of a property, it was necessary for there to have been either a physical alteration to the property itself or to the locality. Neither of these being the case, the Court allowed the appeal, reversing the decision of the Tribunal and upholding the original Council Tax assessment.