A dressage rider plans to appeal after being told she must pay almost £2,000 in rates on her manège.

Carole Stewart, who lives near Burley in the New Forest, was surprised when the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) — part of HM Revenue and Customs — said she must pay a £1,200 annual levy on her 60x20m sand school.

This has been reduced to £280 a year, but backdated five years, so she must pay nearly £1,800 within the month.

“The VOA contacted me out of the blue. The arena is 36m from the house, falls within the curtilage of the property and is for my use alone,” she said.

Mrs Stewart asked the VOA officer for evidence of other manège users being charged and was told that commercial arenas were already subject to the levy, but she was to be the first private user. She was told the VOA is looking at four more properties in Hampshire.

She added:“If we don’t win the VOA will be able to demand rates on every other manège in the country.”

“The implications are huge, I know of 10 private arenas in this village alone.”

A VOA spokesman said: “Manèges, whether used as part of stables or separately, are liable for business rates unless occupied as part of the domestic use of the house and included in council tax.”

If a ratepayer is unhappy, they can appeal to the local valuation officer and then a valuation tribunal.

David Parker of estate agents Savills said: “If a yard adjoining a residential property is close to the accommodation, shares access and is not run as a business, there is a strong argument to say it should be incorporated within the council tax assessment of the home.”

Speaking on behalf of the British Horse Society, surveyor Dominic Knollys added: “The VOA should not discriminate between equestrian facilities and other facilities, such as pools or tennis courts.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (14 October, ’10)