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Racing Stable Owner Wins Rateable Value Dispute by a Nose

Putting a price on houses is all in a day’s work for any surveyor, but valuing land that is put to a more unusual use can present a particular challenge. In one important test case, a tribunal was tasked with assessing the rateable value of gallops used by a leading racing stable.

The stable was equipped with two gallops, one made of woodchips and the other synthetic. A local authority valuation officer took the view that both should be valued for rating purposes at £600 per furlong and arrived at a total rateable value for the stable and gallops together of £33,000.

The stable’s owner, however, contended for a rateable value of £28,500 on the basis that the gallops should have been given a value of £330 per furlong. The stable was far distant from the epicentre of racing in Newmarket, where rateable values were significantly higher. Approached along winding country lanes, the stable was said to have poor access to the motorway network and racecourses.

The cost of laying down the woodchip gallop was about £17,500 per furlong whereas the synthetic gallop cost around £45,000 per furlong. The owner thus contended that it was wrong in principle to value them both on the same £600 per furlong basis. The officer’s assessment was also said to be flawed in that it assumed that hypothetical tenants would be willing to pay exactly the same rent on gallops, irrespective of their location.

In ruling on the dispute, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) noted that at least 17 similar valuation appeals were pending and that the outcome of the case would have wide-ranging implications for the racing industry. The FTT found that the officer had failed to establish comparables in order to justify the £600 per furlong valuation. A costs-based approach to valuing the gallops also did not support her conclusions. Although the gallops did not suffer significant detriment due to their isolated location, that factor could not be entirely ignored.

Doing the best it could, the FTT arrived at valuations of £375 per furlong in respect of the synthetic gallop and £350 per furlong in respect of the woodchip gallop. The decision resulted in a total rateable value for the entire property of £31,000.