Equestrian property owners urged to fight rates increases

  • Two horse owners are urging others to fight their cause after winning appeals against moves by local councils to charge non-domestic rates on equestrian properties.

    Katherine Curley moved to a property in Spreyton, Devon, with four stables and a 20x40m outdoor sand school last August.

    Soon afterwards she was contacted by Mid Devon council, saying it was increasing the council tax due to improvements made by the previous owners.

    On 3 December she received a further letter from the valuation office agency enclosing a proposal to charge non-domestic rates of £1,800 on top of the current increased council tax.

    When she objected, the agency said they would have to take her case to a valuation tribunal.

    To win the case Ms Curley had to prove that her stables, school and other equestrian facilities were within the domestic curtilage of her property.

    “Our stables are 7m from the back door; the school is 26m away,” she told H&H.

    Ms Curley believes councils “are targeting equestrian properties that have recently got planning permission for new facilities,” and is petitioning the government to protest.

    Marilyn Hutchings is another Devon equestrian property owner who has had to go to a tribunal to stop her local council’s decision to make her pay business rates.

    Mrs Hutchings bought her equestrian property in Beaford, near Torridge in 2006, but last year she had a visit from a valuation office agency officer.

    A bill arrived soon afterwards from Torridge District Council for four years of backdated payment of non-domestic rates.

    Mrs Hutchings appealed and last month found she had won her case. The tribunal agreed with Mrs Hutchings’ photographic evidence that the stables were in the curtilage of the garden.

    Torridge council leader Philip Collins said all local authorities were encouraged to increase their business rate lists last year following the Government’s introduction of the business rate retention scheme.

    “As a result authorities have a statutory duty to notify the valuation office agency of any potentially rateable businesses, and it is up to the agency to then determine the rateable levels,” Mr Collins told H&H.

    The council is looking at planning applications and “carrying out an exercise to ensure that any and all businesses that should be liable for business rates are being registered”, he confirmed.

    Ms Curley’s petition can be seen at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/67715

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