FARMING MATTERS: Equal treatment for nursery growers

This is a tree nursery that grew trees for the Olympic Park
This is a tree nursery that grew trees for the Olympic Park

Intense campaigning by the National Farmers Union (NFU) has led to a government decision that will see nursery growers treated equally to other agricultural businesses regarding business rates.

Rishi Sunak MP, Minister for Local Government, confirmed plant nurseries will be covered under the agricultural exemption for business rates, in line with other agricultural businesses.

He said: “This government is committed to ensure that both agricultural land and buildings at plant nursery grounds are exempt from business rates.

“We will be bringing forward legislation as soon as we can so that these sites are not liable for a tax that could have a negative impact on the cost of farming and produce. This includes backdating all payments for those affected.

“It’s all part of our plan to have a productive, competitive and sustainable UK agricultural sector.”

The NFU says this move will help redress an inconsistency in legislation which currently excludes nursery grounds growing mainly or entirely under cover from the exemption.

The issue first came to light following an NFU member’s long running legal case, which was finally decided in the Court of Appeal in 2015. This determined that some nursery grounds growing under cover did not qualify for the agricultural exemption to business rates.

NFU deputy president Guy Smith said: “Over the past three years we have been campaigning hard and engaging with various government departments, including Defra, to address what we believe to be an anomaly -and not parliament’s intention -one which would have had damaging widespread implications for the nursery growers and the wider horticultural industry which depends on them.

“There has also been support from the British Growers Association, the Horticultural Trade Association and its panel rating firm, Turner Morum, as well as from the NFU Legal Assistance Scheme.”

This column appears online on Saturday.