In an unusual case, the Upper Tribunal has determined that a former retail warehouse building should be treated as exempt from rates as an agricultural building, because it was being used solely in connection with agricultural use. The case of Wootton v Gill (2015) related to a building that had been built and occupied as a retail warehouse, but which had become vacant in 2010.
The owner, a local farmer had agricultural land adjoining the building, created an access from his land to the building and installed a roller shutter door for access; allowing the building to be used for storage of silage bales and agricultural machinery. Agricultural land, and agricultural buildings, is exempt from business rates – including empty rates. The owner asked the Valuation Officer to delete its assessment once the use for storage of silage bales and agricultural machinery started, but this was refused. The Valuation Tribunal also refused to delete the assessment, on the grounds that the building was not subsidiary to agricultural land and was not solely used for agricultural purposes.
This was appealed to the Upper Tribunal which found that the building was occupied together with the adjacent agricultural land. The Tribunal also found that the sole use of the building was in connection with agricultural operations on the land. The Tribunal was satisfied that the agricultural exemption should apply and ordered that the assessment should be deleted for the period of the agricultural use.