William Neville Farmer (valuation Officer) v Hambleton District Council and Another

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
JudgeLORD JUSTICE ROCH,LORD JUSTICE CHADWICK,LORD JUSTICE MAY
Judgment Date14 January 1999
Judgment citation (vLex)[1999] EWCA Civ J0114-10
Date14 January 1999
Docket NumberLATRF 97/1505/3

[1999] EWCA Civ J0114-10

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM THE LANDS TRIBUNAL

Royal Courts of Justice

The Strand

London WC2

Before:

Lord Justice Roch

Lord Justice Chadwick

Lord Justice May

LATRF 97/1505/3

William Neville Farmer (valuation Officer)
Respondent
and
(1) Hambleton District Council
(2) Buxted Chicken Limited
Appellant

MR S BERRY QC (Instructed by Messrs Stephens & Scown, Exeter, Devon EX1 1RS) appeared on behalf of the Appellant

MR D HOLGATE QC ( MR T MOYLD—14.1.99) (Instructed by Solicitor of Inland Revenue, Somerset House, WC2R 1LB) appeared on behalf of the Respondent

LORD JUSTICE ROCH
1

This is an appeal by Buxted Chicken Ltd (Buxted Chicken) from a decision of the Lands Tribunal ( PH Clarke Esq) given on the 23rd July 1997 allowing an appeal by the Valuation Officer from decisions of the North Yorkshire Valuation Tribunal given on the 28th July 1995 merging the entries in the 1973 Valuation List for Buxted's Provender Mill at Dalton Airfield, Thirsk and deleting the resultant entry from the Rating List. The Lands Tribunal decided that the Provender Mill, the hereditament the subject of the appeal, should not be treated as an agricultural hereditament. This reversed the findings of the North Yorkshire Valuation Tribunal.

2

The questions formulated by the Lands Tribunal for the decision of this court are:

"(1) Whether I erred in law in holding that the occupations of the Mill and Poultry Farms were all single occupations and therefore did not satisfy the requirements of s. 4(2)(b)(i) of the Rating Act 1971? and

(2) Whether I erred in law in concluding that the test of sole use in s. 1(2) of the Rating Act 1971 could not be applied to the use of the mill, and further that, owing to lack of evidence, I was unable to find that the time spent producing feed at the mill for Hermann Growers did not amount to a substantial part of the time during which the mill was used and, therefore, at the material date, the mill was not used solely in connection with the operations carried on in the poultry farms occupied by Buxted Chicken Ltd and members?"

3

The Lands Tribunal made the following findings of fact:

"1. The appeal hereditament comprises a provender mill, offices and store situated on a former airfield at Eldmire, Dalton near Thirsk in North Yorkshire.

2. The valuation officer originally entered the mill and offices in the 1973 valuation list as a single hereditament with a rateable value of £8,700 and the store as a separate hereditament with an assessment of gross value £425 rateable value £326. On 16 March 1984 the then occupiers of the mill, Buxted Poultry Ltd, made a proposal to delete the mill from the list on the grounds that it was an agricultural building within section 26 of the General Rate Act 1967 ("the 1967 Act") and section 2(1)(b) of the Rating Act 1971 ("the 1971 Act"). The valuation officer and the Hambleton District Council ("the Council") objected to this proposal. The resultant appeal was heard by a local valuation court in 1988; it deleted the mill from the valuation list. The valuation officer and the Council appealed to this Tribunal. By a decision dated 24 November 1989 the Tribunal (CR Mallett and T Hoyes) dismissed the appeals ( Farmer (VO) and Another -v- Buxted Poultry Ltd (LVC/203, 204, 208 and 209/87. The Council appealed against this decision to the Court of Appeal which allowed the appeal. The mill was re-entered in the valuation list with a rateable value of £8,700.

3. On 6 November 1987 the agents for Buxted Poultry Ltd, the owner-occupiers of the mill, offices and store served a proposal for the merger of the two assessments and for the deletion of the merged entry on the grounds that the hereditament comprised agricultural buildings.

4. On the 23 March 1988 the valuation officer made a proposal to alter the valuation list by the merger of the two entries (mill and offices and store) as "provender mill and premises rateable value £10,000". On 14 April 1988 the occupiers' agents objected to this proposal. The resultant appeals were heard by the North Yorkshire Valuation Tribunal and by decisions dated 28 July 1995 the entries in the list for the mill and offices and store were merged and the resultant entry was deleted on the grounds that it constituted agricultural buildings.

5. On 22 August 1995 the valuation officer appealed to this Tribunal on the grounds that "the decision of the Valuation Tribunal is wrong in fact and in law". Notices of intention to appear were served by Buxted Chicken Limited ("Buxted Chicken") and Hambleton District Council. By an order dated 14 February 1996 the Registrar directed that the appeals be consolidated, that the appellant in the consolidated appeals shall be the valuation officer, and that the council shall be the first respondent and Buxted Chicken the second respondent. By a letter to the Tribunal dated 6 December 1996 the Council stated that they wished to withdraw from the proceedings.

6. The material dates in these appeals are the dates the occupiers' and the valuation officer's proposals, 3 November 1987 and 23 March 1988.

7. The mill comprising the appeal hereditament ("the mill") has been used for the production of poultry feed since it was built in 1978. This operation has remained substantially the same, subject to modifications and improvements to the milling process and an expansion of production, which in 1987–88 was 143,242 tonnes per annum.

8. The raw materials for the production of poultry feed are ordered and purchased by Buxted Chicken. Most are delivered to the mill during the weeks of production although some raw materials are collected from local docks. Raw materials are stored in bins ready for production. The mill has a holding capacity of two days' volume of raw materials. This is sufficient to meet production demands during the following week. Buxted Chicken have two fleets of vehicles: for the collection of raw materials and the delivery of feed to the poultry farms respectively.

9. Production at the mill is part of an integrated operation which includes the production of enough feed for the poultry farms occupied by Buxted Chicken and members and the production by those farms of sufficient birds for the associated processing factories.

10. The production process comprises the grinding, mixing and pelletising of the raw materials, with the addition of vitamins and fat, and the cooling and drying of pellets. The completed feed is stored in bulk in out-loading bins ready for delivery to the poultry farms. All deliveries are in bulk. Total storage capacity at the mill is 570 tonnes, equivalent to one days' production.

11. The production of feed is made only against specific orders. The period during which the mill is used for the production of a batch of feed can be identified to a precise period of time from contemporary records. These records are, however, only kept for a limited period and records for 1987–88 have been destroyed.

12. Between 1 January 1987 and 23 March 1988 the feed produced at the mill was distributed to 81 to 84 (sic) poultry farms situated between 1 and 110 miles from the mill. No feed went to any other farms during this period

13. In November 1987 and March 1988 the amounts of feed supplied to the poultry farms were as follows:

Occupiers

Amount

(no. of poultry farms)

(tonnes)

November 1987

Buxted Chicken (37)

4,908.40

Buxted Turkeys (32)

5,328.90

Twydale Turkeys(12)

638.25

Hermann Growers(2)

154.20

Total(83)

11,029.75

March 1988

Buxted Chicken (37)

4,903.74

Hillsdown Turkeys (44)

7,095.83

(Formerly Buxted Turkeys and Twydale Turkeys)

Total (81)

11,999.57

14. No payment was made to the mill for feed supplied to the poultry farms occupied by Buxted Chicken, although costs were monitored for management purposes.

15. The farm manager of each poultry farm is responsible for placing orders at the mill 48 hours before delivery is required. Each batch of feed is produced against a specific order. No feed is manufactured other than in pursuance of an order. The storage of feed is limited to one day and the stocking policy operates on a "just in time" basis. Farms do not hold feed for more than a few days and the mill produces a continuous supply of feed which is actually needed.

16. The production of feed is checked by the customers who purchase the processed birds supplied with feed from the mill. This is to ensure that the required quality is maintained. The poultry farming and the supply of feed are parts of that quality control requirement.

17. Buxted Chicken Limited, Twydale Turkeys Limited and Buxted Turkeys Limited (the last two companies subsequently amalgamated and merged into Hillsdown Turkeys) the occupiers of all except three of the 84 poultry farms referred to in paragraph 12 above, each owned, operated and controlled a fully integrated operation: from the rearing of parent stock to the production and delivery of the finished product. At breeder receiving farms, chickens and turkeys were raised to about 18 weeks of age to lay the eggs which will hatch to produce the birds, eventually sent for slaughter for food production. These eggs were laid at the breeder laying farms, to which the chickens and turkeys had been transferred. The eggs were then sent to a broiler hatchery and the resultant chickens or turkeys were transferred to broiler growing farms where they were grown for six weeks before finally being sent to a processing factory for slaughter and preparation for sale.

18. Buxted Chicken has an agricultural planner who is responsible for the purchase and placing of breeding stock for growing birds on the poultry...

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