A yard owner has started a petition calling for the government to “save our riding schools” in the face of “ridiculous” hikes in business rates.
Jan Blumire, who owns Chelsfield Equestrian Centre in Orpington, Kent, has warned that not only could many riding schools have to close as a result of the tax increases due to apply from April, but that the knock-on effect could hit vets, feed merchants, farriers and other professionals.
“I just don’t understand the government,” she told H&H.
“They’re always saying that children should do more sport and the benefits of it – what happened to the Olympic legacy?”
Mrs Blumire said that as a British Horse Society (BHS) approved centre, Chelsfield was alerted to the increase by the BHS, which has urged members to write to their MPs about the increase.
“Some clients said I should start a petition so I did, and I thought I’d ring up some other local riding schools to see what they’re doing,” she said.
“It became obvious that the ones that aren’t BHS-registered didn’t even know what was happening. I thought, I can’t ring every riding school in the country.”
The increase in rates has come about due to a recalculation – the first in seven years – of business premises’ rateable values.
As equestrian concerns such as riding schools, livery yards and competition centres need more space than an office, for example, they are being hit hard.
“A lot of the people I’ve spoken to have said this will put them out of business,” Mrs Blumire said.
“Our increase is 66%; our rateable value has gone from £19,500 to £29,500 so we’ll be paying an extra £4-500 per month. That’s a lot of money.
“Riding schools don’t usually make a profit; people run them because they want to do the job, because they enjoy it.
“Our vet was here today and she hadn’t heard; this will affect vets, and other professionals too.
“We’ll probably weather this storm, we hope so, but we don’t know; no one does.”
Mrs Blumire wants to spread the word about her petition, which will be presented to her MP, Jo Johnson.
“I wanted to do something and short of taking the horses to Parliament Square and leaving them, saying we can’t pay the rates on the stables so here they are, at least I feel we’re taking some action,” she said.
“But I fear it may be too late. I’m already paying for too many stables and have been waiting for a rebate for two years. That’s the problem, you have to pay it first, before you get it back.
“Those bills will arrive on 1 April and you pay it or you get taken to court. And then what will happen to the horses?”
A government spokesman said: “This government is delivering the biggest ever cut in business rates meaning from April a third of all businesses will pay no rates at all, and nearly a million businesses will see their bills cut.
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“This revaluation improves the fairness of rate bills by making sure they more closely reflect the property market.
“Businesses in rural areas will benefit from the reductions in business rates announced at Budget 2016 – worth £6.7bn over the next 5 years – however if a ratepayer believes the details we hold are incorrect, they can contact us with suggested amends. From 1 April they will have the option of formally challenging the valuation.”