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Reassurance for farmers on occupying formerly rateable premises

Agricultural premises (either land or buildings) are exempt from business rates.   A recent case, Wootton (t/a EF Wootton & Son) v Gill (Valuation Officer) [2015] UKUT 548 (LC), may reassure farmers that they can occupy formerly rateable buildings and apply for removal of the building from the rating list.
In this case, the farmer ran a mixed arable and livestock farm spread over several parcels of land up to 9 miles away. The building in question was a redundant retail warehouse.  The farmer had used the building for a period of approximately 18 months for the storage of silage and agricultural machinery, although there were some items leftover from the previous retail use remaining in the building.   Although it is not common practice to store silage indoors, the farmer had suffered previously from silage being vandalised when left outdoors and so the building had provided extra security, it was also more convenient for the farmer to store the silage in the building rather than transport it longer distances.
The Valuation Officer had refused to delete the building from the rating list. The Valuation Tribunal had upheld the Valuation Officer’s decision.  The farmer appealed to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) (tribunal).  The tribunal held:

  • That the building had been occupied together with his pasture and other agricultural land; and
  • The building was used by the farmer solely in relation to his agricultural business arising from his agricultural land
  • The building should be deleted from the rating list for the relevant period.

The reasons given by the tribunal were that it was irrelevant that the use had been temporary, or that the use had not been necessary, and that although the building was adjacent to only some of the farmer’s agricultural land, it had been occupied in conjunction with his farming business as a whole and that there was no separate business related to the building – it formed part and parcel of his agricultural business as a single agricultural unit. The fact that there remained some items abandoned by the previous retail occupier did not negate that.
For further information or advice please contact Ika Castka.