DESCRIPTIVE RUBRIC

Valuation for rating – Refusal of Committee of request to refer to Tribunal – Appeal – Failure to lodge timeously – whether Tribunal has discretion to allow appeal to be lodged outwith time limit – Exercise of discretion – Lands Tribunal Act 1949, Section 1(3BA) – Valuation Appeal Committee (Procedure in Appeals under the Valuation Acts) (Scotland) Regulations 1995, Regulations 6(2),19.

Valuation for rating – Refusal of Committee of request to refer to Tribunal – Appeal – Hotels – Levels of value – Challenge to Assessors’ scheme and reference to English comparisons – evidence about lease terms and conditions, decreasing profitability, cross-border comparisons and methodology under the English scheme – whether complex or highly technical – whether ‘fundamental or general issue likely to be used as a precedent in other cases’ – Lands Tribunal Act 1949, Section 1(3BA) – Valuation Appeal Committee (Procedure in Appeals under the Valuation Acts) (Scotland) 1995, Regulation 5(1)

North British Trust Hotels v (1) Lothian Assessor and (2) Dumfries and Galloway Assessor
LTS/VA/2003/35 and 36
16 October 2003

Appeals against refusals of Committees in two similar cases were lodged outwith the 21-day time limit laid down by Regulation 6(2) of the 1995 Regulations. Regulation 19 gives committees certain powers to extend time limits. The local Committee was not asked to extend the time limit. The Tribunal’s procedure regulations have not been amended to take account of Section 1(3BA) appeals. A dispute arose as to the competency of the Tribunal allowing the appeals to be lodged late in circumstances in which the appellant’s representative, a sole practitioner, had received medical attention for a serious condition during the time limit period.

On the ‘merits’, the appellants were proposing to challenge the levels of value adopted by the Assessors in their scheme for valuation of hotels. The Scottish assessors’ methodology was not to be challenged, but it was proposed to refer to English comparisons in relation to value levels. It was argued that aspects of the evidence to be led would involve complexity; and that the case raised a fundamental issue as to the level of value to be applied to hotels which was likely to be used as a precedent because there were a number of outstanding hotel appeals and a successful challenge of the assessors’ scheme could also lead to ‘material change’ appeals for other hotels.

Held, (1) The Tribunal has discretion, in exceptional cases, to allow such appeals to be lodged outwith the time limit laid down by Regulation 6(2), where the failure to apply in time has been caused by some excusable mistake or by some cause over which the party who has failed had no control. The Assessors had conceded that if Regulation 19 was to be construed as applying to such appeals no sanction of automatic refusal could be implied. Regulation 19 clearly did apply to such appeals. It was appropriate that the principles indicated by Lord Patrick in National Commercial Bank ofScotland v Assessor forFife 1963 S.C. 197 at 202 should be applied in this as in other types of case in the valuation field. In the present case, the discretion should be exercised in favour of the appellants because, and only because, the appellants’ surveyor had been distracted during the relevant period by a serious medical condition. Although the prejudice to the appellants in this type of cases did not extend to loss of the substantial right of appeal (which would continue before the Committee), the loss of opportunity to argue before the Tribunal for the appeals to be heard by the Tribunal was substantial, particularly where the reasons given by the Committees were brief or non-existent.

(2) On the merits, however, none of the three grounds under Regulation 5(1) relied on was established. While the appellants were entitled to challenge the assessors’ scheme, the assessors’ methodology was not under challenge, and the matters referred to, including the proposed comparison with English values, did not, as a matter of impression come up to the standard of complexity under either Regulation 5(1)(a) or 5(1)(b). In relation to Regulation 5(1)(d), it was not enough to indicate that the result would be used in other cases. Since the issue was not the methodology, but simply the levels of value adopted, it did not appear that there was a fundamental issue or general principle likely to be used as a precedent in other cases. On the information given about the number of hotels in which settlements had been reached on the basis of the scheme, it did not appear that the outcome would be likely to be used in other cases. There was no general issue in these appeals about the applicability of Section 15(1)(a) of the 1963 Act in relation to comparison with English subjects. The appeals were refused.

Cases referred to:-

National Commercial Bank of Scotland v Assessor for Fife 1963 S.C. 197
Teesdale v Assessor for Renfrew 1963 S.L.T. (Notes) 65
Cobbinshaw Angling Association v Assessor for Midlothian 1968 S.L.T. (Notes) 29
Bank of Scotland v Fife Assessor 1982 S.L.T. 221
Marks and Spencer plc v Assessor forGlasgow LTS/VA/2003/9, 12.5.2003


See full decision:  LTS/VA/2003/35 & 36