17 August 2001

Diversify for rate relief

FARM diversification projects could save up to £2580/year under a new government measure, claims the Country Land and Business Association.

The Ratings Act 2001, which was announced at the end of July and came into effect on Wed, Aug 15, introduces five-year 50% mandatory rate relief for farm land and buildings used for non-agricultural purposes where the rateable value is less than £6000.

Local authorities will have discretionary powers to increase this to 100% where it is felt the new business will benefit the local community and the cost to the council tax payer is justified. The rebate will initially run for five years.

CLA regional director Peter Geldhart calculates the 50% saving could amount to a maximum of £1290, double that if the discretionary powers are used. "These are not huge sums of money, but every little helps."

However, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says the scheme does not go far enough.

"It is not just very small businesses which have suffered during foot-and-mouth," says a spokesman. "If the rebate had been extended to enterprises with a rateable value up to £12,000 it would have helped many more firms during the current crisis." &#42