We are delighted by the recent Government policy that land and buildings at plant nursery grounds should benefit from the agricultural exemption for business rates.

The NFU, with the backing of the HTA, its expert ratings advisors Turner Morum LLP, and the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable fought hard for this exemption to be reaffirmed allowing growers the security to invest into the future. 

The Government has agreed to use the next legislative opportunity to make sure all plant nursery grounds continue to have an agricultural exemption from business rates. Their intention is to amend the Local Government Finance Act which is currently going through parliament.

Raoul Curtis-Machin, HTA Director of Horticulture, says, “Many of our grower member businesses were facing business rate charges for the first time this year, where they had previously been exempt under an agricultural classification. In some cases this could have amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds, which could have put some members out of business. The HTA, working with the NFU and the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group, has been lobbying government for this not happen and has now received a Ministerial Statement that our efforts have worked. This is great news for growers who feared that being brought into the rates system would make their businesses unviable.”

On Thursday 30 March, Marcus Jones, MP and minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, made the following announcement:

"Since at least 1928, plant nursery grounds have been treated by the Valuation Office Agency as exempt from business rates as part of the general exemption for agriculture. However, following a recent Court of Appeal decision, the Valuation Office Agency has started to bring into business rates buildings at nursery grounds including structures such as poly-tunnels.

The exemption for agricultural properties is an important part of the rating system. It ensures that large areas of agricultural land and buildings are not liable to a property tax which could have a significant impact on the cost of farming. I can confirm to the House that the Government’s policy is that land and buildings at plant nursery grounds should benefit from the agricultural exemption for business rates.

Therefore, we intend at the soonest opportunity to amend the Local Government Finance Act 1988 to ensure both agricultural land and buildings at plant nursery grounds are exempt from business rates. This will return the law to align with the practice followed by the Valuation Office Agency before the decision in the Court of Appeal."

The wording of the amendment has yet to be revealed and the timescale for the implementation of the changes remains unclear, however, the minister’s reassurance serves as confirmation that growers will be protected. 

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