Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:

Last November we welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement in the autumn statement that the threshold for small business rate relief would be doubled from £6,000 to £12,000 from April this year. Unfortunately, however, it is now clear that the benefits of the increased threshold will be far outweighed by revaluation plans that will disproportionately impact rural businesses.

We are particularly concerned by the impact that the revaluation proposals will have on riding centres and livery yards. Figures from the British Horse Society show that some riding centres will see their business rates increase by up to 300% and that five out of six riding schools and livery yards will not qualify for small business rate relief. There is no doubt that the flawed revaluation proposals, brought forward by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) risk severely undermining the equine industry and I sympathise greatly with the concerns that have been expressed by the British Horse Society and by riding centres up and down the country.

What is particularly perverse about the proposed changes is that many riding centres have been encouraged by the Government through grants to expand their physical footprint and facilities to meet customers’ expectations. Under the revaluation proposals all of these new facilities will be subject to increased business rates and the VOA appears to be blind to the fact that there are sound animal welfare reasons why riding centres and livery yards take up the space they do. It is unfair for them to be punished for promoting high animal welfare standards by following strict guidelines.

Earlier this week we met Andrew Rosindell MP to discuss the matter. Andrew has five riding centres within his Romford constituency, all of whom are concerned about the future sustainability of their businesses following the publication of the VOA’s proposals. This week we made a joint statement with him calling for the wholescale review of the VOA’s proposals. We can only hope that ahead of the budget next week that the Chancellor takes the opportunity to address this unfair imbalance, which could have damaging consequences for rural businesses.

Tim Bonner
Chief Executive
Follow Tim @CA_TimB