Law Report: Assessing agricultural occupation: Hambleton District Council v Buxted Poultry Ltd - House of Lords (Lord Templeman, Lord Oliver of Aylmerton, Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Mustill and Lord Slynn of Hadley), 10 December 1992

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For a building to qualify as an agricultural building, so as to be exempt from rates under section 26 of the General Rate Act 1967, on the grounds that it was 'occupied together with' an agricultural building or agricultural land, within the meaning of section 26(4) of the 1967 Act and section 2(1) of the Rating Act 1971, it had to be occupied together with that building or land so as to form in a real sense a single agricultural unit.

The House of Lords dismissed an appeal by Buxted Poultry Ltd from the decision of the Court of Appeal ((1992) 1 WLR 330), allowing appeals by the rating authority, Hambleton District Council, from the decision of the Lands Tribunal and of the North Yorkshire Valuation Court, deleting certain entries from the valuation list.

T P E Curry QC and Malcolm Davis-White (Stephens & Scown, Exeter) for Buxted; Christopher Cochrane QC and Simon Bird (Sharpe Pritchard, for Colin Spencer, Northallerton) for the council.

LORD SLYNN said Buxted owned and occupied 67 poultry breeding and rearing farms variously situated between a quarter of a mile and 120 miles from a factory where it processed and packed turkeys and chickens for human consumption.

The question was whether the factory was 'occupied together with' buildings used to keep or breed livestock within section 2(1)(b) of the 1971 Act. For one building to be 'occupied together with' another, both had to be in the same occupation, and the activities carried on in both had to be jointly controlled or managed, at the same time.

But that was not sufficient. Nor was any geographical test conclusive, though the distance between the buildings was a relevant consideration. Nor was it sufficient that the buildings or land were all part of the same business enterprise.

What was necessary was to show that the two buildings, or the building and the agricultural land, were occupied together so as to form in a real sense a single agricultural unit.

It was impossible so to find in this case. The factory should be rated.

LORD TEMPLEMAN, LORD OLIVER, LORD GOFF and LORD MUSTILL agreed.

Paul Magrath, Barrister

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