In “Clearing Hurdles” a report recently published by the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) the value of the equine industry to the British economy is cited as £4.3 billion. This figure does not take racing into account, which if included brings the industry’s value closer to £7 billion.
The report sets out the agenda the CLA will pursue in lobbying the Government for improvements to areas of legislation which impact upon equine businesses, with a view to creating “a modern and thriving equine business sector.” The key areas within its sights are:
Equine businesses do not benefit from planning exemptions designed to facilitate the development of land for agricultural purposes. This is because these exemptions are targeted at food production.
The CLA wants the local authority to take a positive approach to planning for equine businesses in recognition of:
- the low impact of a well managed equine business on the environment; and
- the importance and value of the equine sector to the rural economy.
Access to land for grazing
Currently access to land for grazing is provided through a range of legal agreements which relate to specific use of the land such as grazing licences and profits à prendre.
The CLA has suggested a reform of Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 to enable secure short term lettings of small premises for business use on more flexible terms such as the assured shorthold tenancy in the residential sector.
The CLA will press the Government to reform S2 Animals Act 1971 so as to restrict the liability of owners for damage caused by their horses to cases in which the owner was negligent.
It is hoped that this will cause a reduction in insurance premiums for equine businesses and in particular riding schools some of which the CLA observes have been put out of business, due to their inability to afford the higher premiums.
Business Rates system
Business Rates are payable where property is used for commercial purposes. The amount payable is calculated by reference to the annual rent a property could have generated on the open market on a particular day which is then multiplied by the figure set by the Government (Rateable Value).
If a property is empty and has a Rateable Value of less then £2,600, Business Rates are not payable. The threshold was decreased from £18,000 in 2011 which has brought many equine businesses within the band where Business Rates apply.
Exemptions applicable to agricultural property do not often apply to property used by equine businesses. The CLA is therefore calling on the Government to increase the Business Rate threshold applicable to equine business property.
Availability of APR
Agricultural Property Relief (APR) from inheritance tax does not usually apply to land used for grazing horses. The CLA Is concerned that farms are not letting land for grazing in case APR is removed. It is therefore calling on the Government to make APR available on land used for grazing.
Modifying public rights of way
Public rights of way are often a contentious issue and the CLA believes the complexity of the current procedure for modifying existing routes makes disagreements between land users and landowners worse.
The CLA is calling on the Government to make it easier for landowners to move rights of way to improve relations between land owners and land users in the countryside.
The CLA is also seeking more permissive routes to ensure land managers are rewarded for allowing access.
We will watch the impact of these suggestions with interest.